Quick Project Snapshot

The effects of adolescent toluene exposure on metabolic function

Inhalant abuse (also known as “chroming”) is a major socio-economic problem in Australia, and a rapidly growing drug of choice to reach a euphoric state. Inhalants such as paint, glue, hair-spray or petrol are among the cheapest drugs in the community, and unlike illicit drugs, there are no legal restrictions on their purchase, supply, possession or use. The typical onset of experimentation with inhalants occurs earlier than with most other drugs of abuse, in the preteen years. Indeed the incidence of inhalant abuse is greatest in the adolescent population with numbers as high as 26% of adolescents abusing solvents; with 12-13 year olds comprising nearly 50% of this population. As a result exposure to inhalants in early adolescence coincides with dramatic periods of growth and maturation and thus has the potential to influence processes that could lead to long-term changes in metabolic function including food consumption and caloric absorption. This could aid in the explanation of why many chronic abusers lose weight and appear emaciated.  The aim of this project is to utilise a rodent model of adolescent toluene exposure via inhalation in order to increase our understanding of the effects inhalants have on long-term metabolic function. In particular we aim to investigate whether inhalant induced changes in body composition are related to altered energy intake. If so we then wish to explore whether this is driven by changes to systemic (ie changes to peripheral organs) or centrally (ie changes to the brain) mediated processes that regulate energy balance. Finally we wish to explore whether inhalant-induce alterations in energy balance may lead to a predisposition of developing adult onset disorders such as renal disease, diabetes and heart disease. The results from these studies will increase our understanding of the long-term effects of inhalant abuse on metabolic functions and increase our understanding of the mechanisms that may be underlying adverse outcomes following inhalant exposure, especially if abuse occurs during adolescence when individuals may be more susceptible to drug induced adaptations.

Dr Jhodie Duncan

Inhalant Addiction Laboratory

The abuse of inhaled chemical vapours to produce self-intoxication is a significant concern, especially among adolescent and Indigenous populations.  Our data suggest that exposure to inhalants affects corticostriatal processes specifically and does not involve global toxicity to white matter pathways in the brain as was originally thought. Using this model we have also shown that exposure to inhalants during adolescence results in long-term metabolic dysfunction. This includes altering dietary preference and glycemic control. This novel finding suggests that adolescent inhalant abuse may increase the risk of adult onset disorders such as diabetes and has significant implications for our understanding of the long-term consequences, especially in Indigenous populations where there is a high degree of overlap between inhalant abuse and nutrition related illness.

The next step in our studies is to determine the underlying mechanisms, including both changes to central or peripheral mediated processes that drive the adverse outcomes observed in human abusers. 

All Projects by this Lab

The effects of adolescent toluene exposure on metabolic function

Behavioural Neuroscience

The Division of Behavioural Neuroscience focuses on the use and development of models that reflect aspects of human disorders such as addiction, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, autism and neurodegenerative conditions such as Huntington’s disease. The Cognitive Neuroscience group additionally studies cognitive disorders caused by diseases such as stroke (cerebrovascular disease), Alzheimer's disease and other dementias from a clinical perspective.

All Labs that operate in this Division

Addiction Neuroscience LaboratoryDevelopmental Psychobiology LaboratoryEpigenetics and Neural Plasticity LaboratoryGenes Environment and Behaviour LaboratoryInhalant Addiction LaboratoryMidbrain Dopamine Plasticity LaboratorySynapse Biology and Cognition Laboratory