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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 May 1;104(18):7646-51. Epub 2007 Apr 25.

Perinatal exposure to a noncoplanar polychlorinated biphenyl alters tonotopy, receptive fields, and plasticity in rat primary auditory cortex.

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  • 1Keck Center of Integrative Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


Noncoplanar polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are widely dispersed in human environment and tissues. Here, an exemplar noncoplanar PCB was fed to rat dams during gestation and throughout three subsequent nursing weeks. Although the hearing sensitivity and brainstem auditory responses of pups were normal, exposure resulted in the abnormal development of the primary auditory cortex (A1). A1 was irregularly shaped and marked by internal nonresponsive zones, its topographic organization was grossly abnormal or reversed in about half of the exposed pups, the balance of neuronal inhibition to excitation for A1 neurons was disturbed, and the critical period plasticity that underlies normal postnatal auditory system development was significantly altered. These findings demonstrate that developmental exposure to this class of environmental contaminant alters cortical development. It is proposed that exposure to noncoplanar PCBs may contribute to common developmental disorders, especially in populations with heritable imbalances in neurotransmitter systems that regulate the ratio of inhibition and excitation in the brain. We conclude that the health implications associated with exposure to noncoplanar PCBs in human populations merit a more careful examination.

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