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Toxicology. 1992 Sep;74(2-3):151-60.

Behavioural effects of neonatal metallic mercury exposure in rats.

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Department of Toxicology, Uppsala University, Sweden.


The effect of neonatal exposure of rats to mercury vapour (Hg0), at the concentration 0.05 mg/m3, 1 h (low dose) or 4 h (high dose), on the behaviour in adulthood were studied. Exposure occurred on days 11-17 (the period of rapid brain growth). Tests for spontaneous motor activity were performed at the ages of 2 and 4 months. Rats exposed to the high dose Hg0 showed a marked increase in variables locomotion and total activity but a decrease for rearing when tested at 2 months of age. At 4 months of age these rats showed a marked hypoactivity with respect to all three variables. Rats exposed to the low dose showed no significant differences at 2 months compared to controls. However, at the age of 4 months the same pattern (increase in variables locomotion and total activity but a decrease for rearing) already noticed in the high dose group at 2 months was observed. In the spatial learning tasks applied, the radial arm maze and circular swim maze, neonatally exposed pups showed a retarded acquisition to the former, while there was no difference compared to controls in the latter. These data indicate that neonatal exposure to mercury vapour results in similar behaviour changes as reported from offspring prenatally exposed to mercury vapour or methylmercury. Furthermore, exposure for 1 week to concentrations around Swedish threshold values (TLV) for 1 or 4 h resulted in dose and age-related behavioural changes.

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