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Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2006 Jan-Feb;28(1):59-73. Epub 2006 Jan 18.

Gestational exposure to methylmercury and n-3 fatty acids: effects on high- and low-rate operant behavior in adulthood.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 6001 Research Park Boulevard, Madison, WI 53719, USA. paletz@wisc.edu

Abstract

Fish in the diet is the major source of methylmercury (MeHg) exposure, but eating fish also provides important nutrients. Many fish species contain essential long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 (or n-3) fatty acid, that is important for neural development and function. To examine interactions between MeHg and n-3 fatty acids, female Long-Evans rats were exposed, in utero, to 0, 0.5, or 5 ppm MeHg via drinking water, approximating exposures of 0, 40, and 400 mug/kg/day. They also received pre- and postnatal exposure to a diet containing either fish oil or coconut oil, creating a 2 (Diet)x3 (MeHg) full factorial design, with 6-8 rats per cell. The diets were high or marginal, respectively, in n-3 fatty acids but approximately equal in n-6 fatty acids. No exposure-related effects on developmental milestones or growth were noted. Behavior was evaluated using a series of rapidly increasing fixed ratio (FR) schedules of sucrose reinforcement; 1, 5, 25 and 75 lever presses were required for sucrose delivery, with three sessions provided at each requirement. This phase was followed by four sessions of a differential-reinforcement-of-low-rate-behavior (DRL) schedule, in which presses preceded by 10 s (or more) without a press were reinforced. Subsequently, several progressive ratio (PR) schedules that increased response requirements throughout a single session by a rate of 5%, 10%, or 20% were imposed. Rats exposed during gestation to MeHg had significantly higher response rates than controls under the large FR schedules, during the first session of DRL, and the PR 5% schedule, but neither fish oil nor coconut oil modified MeHg's effects. This finding is consistent with hypotheses that developmental MeHg exposure produced perseverative responding or altered the sensitivity of behavior to its reinforcing consequences and that certain reinforcement contingencies can unmask MeHg's effects.

PMID:
16413743
DOI:
10.1016/j.ntt.2005.11.003
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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