How the neuromolecular actions of ethanol translate to its observed intoxicating effects remains poorly understood. Synchrony of phase (phase locking) of event-related oscillations (EROs) within and between different brain areas has been suggested to reflect communication exchange between neural networks and as such may be a sensitive and translational measure of ethanol's effects. Using a similar auditory event-related potential paradigm in both rats and humans we investigated the phase variability of EROs collected from 38 young men who had participated in an ethanol/placebo challenge protocol, and 46 adult male rats given intraperitoneal injections of ethanol/saline. Phase locking was significantly higher in the delta frequencies in humans than in rats. Phase locking was also higher for the rare (target) tone than the frequent (non-target) tone in both species. Significant reductions in phase locking to the rare (target) tone in the delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma frequencies, within and between brain sites, was found at 1 h following ethanol as compared to placebo/saline administration in both rats and humans. Reductions in phase locking in the alpha frequencies in the parietal cortex were found to be correlated with blood ethanol concentrations. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that ethanol's intoxicating actions in the brain include reducing synchrony within and between neuronal networks, perhaps by increasing the level of noise in key neuromolecular interactions. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.
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