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Exp Neurol. 2010 Jun;223(2):566-73. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2010.02.003. Epub 2010 Feb 17.

Prenatal exposure to ethanol affects postnatal neurogenesis in thalamus.

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Department of Neuroscience and Physiology, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA.


The number of neurons in the ventrobasal thalamus (VB) in the adolescent rat is unaffected by prenatal exposure to ethanol. This is in sharp contrast to other parts of the trigeminal-somatosensory system, which exhibit 30-35% fewer neurons after prenatal ethanol exposure. The present study tested the hypothesis that prenatal ethanol exposure affects dynamic changes in the numbers of VB neurons; such changes reflect the sum of cell proliferation and death. Neuronal number in the VB was determined during the first postnatal month in the offspring of pregnant Long-Evans rats fed an ethanol-containing diet or pair-fed an isocaloric non-alcoholic liquid diet. Offspring were examined between postnatal day (P) 1 and P30. The size of the VB and neuronal number were determined stereologically. Prenatal exposure to ethanol did not significantly alter neuronal number on any individual day, nor was the prenatal generation of VB neurons affected. Interestingly, prenatal ethanol exposure did affect the pattern of the change in neuronal number over time; total neuronal number was stable in the ethanol-treated pups after P12, but it continued to rise in the controls until P21. In addition, the rate of cell proliferation during the postnatal period was greater in ethanol-treated animals. Thus, the rate of neuronal acquisition is altered by ethanol, and by deduction, there appears to be less ethanol-induced neuronal loss in the VB. A contributor to these changes is a latent effect of ethanol on postnatal neurogenesis in the VB and the apparent survival of new neurons.

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