Alcohol withdrawal-induced hippocampal neurotoxicity in vitro and seizures in vivo are both reduced by memantine

Tracy D. Stepanyan, Justin M. Farook, Alexandra Kowalski, Eva Kaplan, Susan Barron, John M. Littleton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: The ethanol withdrawal (EWD) syndrome is typically treated using benzodiazepines such as diazepam. However there is concern that benzodiazepines may not prevent neurotoxicity associated with EWD. Antagonists of glutamate/N-Methyl-D-Aspartate receptors (NMDARs) such as MK801 have been shown to be effective against both EWD-induced neurotoxicity in vitro and seizures in vivo. However, most of these agents have adverse side effects. An exception is the moderate affinity NMDAR channel blocker memantine, used in Alzheimer's dementia. The present studies examined the ability of memantine to protect against EWD-related toxicity in vitro and seizures in vivo. Methods: Organotypic hippocampal slice cultures from neonatal rat pups were treated starting at 15 days in vitro with 100 mM ethanol for 10 days followed by a 24-hour EWD period. During the 24-hour EWD period cultures were treated with memantine (15 or 30 μM). MK801 (10 μM) was utilized as a positive control. For the in vivo studies, the ability of memantine (2, 5, 10, and 15 mg/kg) to reduce convulsions was analyzed in Swiss-Webster mice using the handling induced convulsion test paradigm. Results: In vitro studies demonstrated that memantine is effective at blocking EWD-induced neurotoxicity. In vivo experiments showed that memantine also significantly reduced convulsions induced by EWD in mice. Conclusions: Memantine may be of therapeutic value during alcohol detoxification by virtue of its having neuroprotective effects in addition to anti-seizure activity. The potential role of memantine in treatment of alcoholism is deserving of further study. ©

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2128-2135
Number of pages8
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Ethanol withdrawal syndrome
  • Hippocampal slice culture
  • Memantine
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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