Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 223, Issue 1, pp 195–210 | Cite as

Sex differences in hippocampal damage, cognitive impairment, and trophic factor expression in an animal model of an alcohol use disorder

  • Mark E. Maynard
  • Emily A. Barton
  • Caleb R. Robinson
  • Jessica I. Wooden
  • J. Leigh Leasure
Original Article


Compared to men, women disproportionally experience alcohol-related organ damage, including brain damage, and while men remain more likely to drink and to drink heavily, there is cause for concern because women are beginning to narrow the gender gap in alcohol use disorders. The hippocampus is a brain region that is particularly vulnerable to alcohol damage, due to cell loss and decreased neurogenesis. In the present study, we examined sex differences in hippocampal damage following binge alcohol. Consistent with our prior findings, we found a significant binge-induced decrement in dentate gyrus (DG) granule neurons in the female DG. However, in the present study, we found no significant decrement in granule neurons in the male DG. We show that the decrease in granule neurons in females is associated with both spatial navigation impairments and decreased expression of trophic support molecules. Finally, we show that post-binge exercise is associated with an increase in trophic support and repopulation of the granule neuron layer in the female hippocampus. We conclude that sex differences in alcohol-induced hippocampal damage are due in part to a paucity of trophic support and plasticity-related signaling in females.


Alcohol binge Sex differences Neurodegeneration Cognitive deficits Trophic support Neurorestoration 



This study was supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism R21 AA 021260. We thank Dr. Shaefali Rodgers for a critical reading of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism R21 AA 021260.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biology and BiochemistryUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Neurobiology and AnatomyUniversity of Texas Health Science CenterHoustonUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyEastern Nazarene CollegeQuincyUSA

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