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Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2006 Jan-Feb;28(1):3-17. Epub 2005 Dec 15.

Behavioral consequences of developmental iron deficiency in infant rhesus monkeys.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Toxicology, CNRPC, Room 1925, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, United States.


Human studies have shown that iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia in infants are associated with behavioral impairment, but the periods of brain development most susceptible to iron deficiency have not been established. In the present study, rhesus monkeys were deprived of iron by dietary iron restriction during prenatal (n=14, 10 microg Fe/g diet) or early postnatal (n=12, 1.5 mg Fe/L formula) brain development and compared to controls (n=12, 100 microg Fe/g diet, 12 mg Fe/L formula) in behavioral evaluations conducted during the first four months of life in the nonhuman primate nursery. Iron deficiency anemia was detected in the pregnant dams in the third trimester and compromised iron status was seen in the prenatally iron-deprived infants at birth, but no iron deficiency was seen in either the prenatally or postnatally iron-deprived infants during the period of behavioral evaluation. Neither prenatal nor postnatal iron deprivation led to significant delays in growth, or gross or fine motor development. Prenatally deprived infants demonstrated a 20% reduced spontaneous activity level, lower inhibitory response to novel environments, and more changes from one behavior to another in weekly observation sessions. Postnatally deprived infants demonstrated poorer performance of an object concept task, and greater emotionality relative to controls. This study indicates that different syndromes of behavioral effects are associated with prenatal and postnatal iron deprivation in rhesus monkey infants and that these effects can occur in the absence of concurrent iron deficiency as reflected in hematological measures.

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