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Toxicol Lett. 2010 Nov 30;199(2):136-43. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2010.08.015. Epub 2010 Sep 9.

Perinatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls alters social behaviors in rats.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403-0208, USA.


Perinatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) leads to significant alterations of neural and hormonal systems. These alterations have been shown to impair motor and sensory development. Less is known about the influence of PCB exposure on developing emotional and motivational systems involved in social interactions and social learning. The present study examined the impact of perinatal PCB exposure (mixture of congeners 47 and 77) on social recognition in juvenile animals, conspecific-directed investigation in adults and on neural and hormonal systems involved in social functions. We used a standard habituation-dishabituation paradigm to evaluate juvenile recognition and a social port paradigm to monitor adult social investigation. Areal measures of the periventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus were obtained to provide correlations with related hormone and brain systems. PCB exposed rats were significantly impaired in social recognition as indicated by persistent conspecific-directed exploration by juvenile animals regardless of social experience. As adults, PCB exposure led to a dampening of the isolation-induced enhancement of social investigation. There was not a concomitant alteration of social investigation in pair-housed PCB exposed animals at this stage of development. Interestingly, PVN area was significantly decreased in juvenile animals exposed to PCB during the perinatal period. Shifts in hypothalamic regulation of hormones involved in social behavior and stress could be involved in the behavioral changes observed. Overall, the results suggest that PCB exposure impairs context or experience-dependent modulation of social approach and investigation. These types of social-context deficits are similar to behavioral deficits observed in social disorders such as autism and other pervasive developmental disorders.

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