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Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2002 Nov-Dec;24(6):743-50.

Effects of sodium arsenite exposure on development and behavior in the rat.

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Center for Neurobiology, Campus UNAM-Juriquilla, P.O. Box 1-1141, Qere'taro, Qro. 76001, Mexico.


Arsenic is an environmental contaminant found in soil, water and air in some zones of the world. It has been widely studied for its effects as a human carcinogenic agent, but few studies have dealt with neurobehavioral effects. In addition, studies of arsenic effects on development have only addressed its effects on embryotoxicity and teratogenicity after a single oral, gavage or intraperitoneal exposure. Among the behavioral alterations reported after intoxication with arsenic are both increased and decreased locomotor activity and learning deficits in a delayed alternation task [Toxicol. Lett. 54 (1990) 345; Bull. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 50 (1993) 100; Brain Res. Bull. 55 (2001) 301]. To further characterize developmental and behavioral alterations induced by arsenic exposure, Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to arsenite (36.70 mg arsenic/l in drinking water) from gestation day 15 (GD 15) or postnatal day 1 (PND 1), until approximately 4 months old. The pregnant or lactating dams received either the arsenic solution or regular drinking water and once pups were weaned, they continued receiving the same solution as drinking water. Animals exposed from GD 15 showed increased spontaneous locomotor activity and both exposed groups showed increased number of errors in a delayed alternation task in comparison to the control group. Total arsenic (TA) content in brain was similar for both exposed groups and significantly different from the control group. These results indicate that rats exposed to arsenic during development present deficits in spontaneous locomotor activity and alterations in a spatial learning task.

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