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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Oct;223(4):401-15. Epub 2012 May 5.

Hyperactivity, increased nicotine consumption and impaired performance in the five-choice serial reaction time task in adolescent rats prenatally exposed to nicotine.

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Section of Behavioural Pharmacology, Institute of Psychiatry P048, King's College London, De Crespigny Park, London, SE5 8AF, UK.



Prenatal exposure to nicotine has been linked to accelerated risk for different psychiatric disorders, including conduct disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and drug abuse. We examine a potential link between prenatal nicotine exposure, hyperactivity, anxiety, nicotine consumption, and cognitive performance in rats.


Adolescent offspring of females exposed during pregnancy to 0.06 mg/ml nicotine solution as the only source of water and of a group of pair-fed females, used as a control for anorexic effects of nicotine, were evaluated in a battery of tests, including locomotor activity, the elevated plus maze, two-bottle free-choice nicotine solution consumption, the five-choice serial reaction time test (5-CSRTT) and a delay-discounting test. All tests were conducted between postnatal day (PND) 25 and PND 50.


Nicotine-exposed animals expressed hyperactivity, increased number of open arms entries in the elevated plus maze and increased numbers of anticipatory responses in the 5-CSRTT. Decreased aversion for nicotine solution in the free-choice test and decreased numbers of omission errors in the 5-CSRTT were observed both in nicotine-exposed and pair-fed offspring. Neither nicotine exposure nor pair-feeding had an effect on impulsive choice in a delay-discounting test.


Our study confirms deleterious effects of prenatal nicotine exposure on important aspects of behaviour and inhibitory control in adolescent rats and supports epidemiological findings that show increased levels of symptoms of ADHD and related disorders among those whose mothers smoked during their pregnancy. It also suggests a link between food restriction during pregnancy and addiction-related behaviours in offspring.

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