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Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2004 Jul-Aug;26(4):543-51.

Spatial acquisition in the Morris water maze and hippocampal long-term potentiation in the adult guinea pig following brain growth spurt--prenatal ethanol exposure.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada K7L 3N6.


Previous work has demonstrated that in the guinea pig, chronic prenatal ethanol exposure throughout gestation can result in deficits in spatial learning in the Morris water maze and impaired hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP). The behavioural effects are known to be dose dependent because water maze deficits occur at a dose of 4 g ethanol/kg maternal body weight/day, but not at a dose of 3 g/kg/day, administered throughout gestation. It is possible that the gradual, progressive development of tolerance to ethanol throughout gestation limits ethanol toxicity, especially for lower doses of ethanol. The present study examined whether neurobehavioural deficits are produced by prenatal ethanol exposure at a dose of 3 g/kg/day, administered only during the brain growth spurt (BGS), a regimen designed to limit the development of ethanol tolerance. Pregnant guinea pigs [term, about gestational day (GD) 68] received oral administration of ethanol (1.5 g/kg maternal body weight/day on GD 43 and 44 and then 3 g/kg maternal body weight/day from GD 45 to 62), isocaloric-sucrose/pair-feeding, or water. Offsprings were studied between postnatal days (PD) 40 and 80. The maternal blood ethanol concentration (BEC) on GD 57 or 58, at 1 h after the daily dose, was 245+/-19 mg/dl (n=7). This BGS--prenatal ethanol exposure regimen did not affect spatial learning performance in the Morris water maze over a 7-day test period or in the LTP recorded in the CA1 region of the hippocampus. Thus, even when limiting the development of ethanol tolerance seen with chronic ethanol treatment throughout gestation, ethanol exposure during the BGS does not result in deficits in the behavioural and electrophysiological measures of hippocampal integrity assessed in the present study. These data indicate that in the guinea pig, the BGS may not constitute a critical period of vulnerability for ethanol-induced deficits in spatial learning or hippocampal synaptic plasticity in young adult offspring.

Copyright 2004 Elsevier Inc.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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