Effects of sex and housing on social, spatial, and motor behavior in adult rats exposed to moderate levels of alcohol during prenatal development. Academic Article uri icon


  • Persistent deficits in social behavior, motor behavior, and behavioral flexibility are among the major negative consequences associated with exposure to ethanol during prenatal development. Prior work from our laboratory has linked moderate prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) in the rat to deficits in these behavioral domains, which depend upon the ventrolateral frontal cortex (Hamilton et al., 2014) [20]. Manipulations of the social environment cause modifications of dendritic morphology and experience-dependent immediate early gene expression in ventrolateral frontal cortex (Hamilton et al., 2010) [19], and may yield positive behavioral outcomes following PAE. In the present study we evaluated the effects of housing PAE rats with non-exposed control rats on adult behavior. Rats of both sexes were either paired with a partner from the same prenatal treatment condition (ethanol or saccharin) or from the opposite condition (mixed housing condition). At four months of age (∼3 months after the housing manipulation commenced), social behavior, tongue protrusion, and behavioral flexibility in the Morris water task were measured as in (Hamilton et al., 2014) [20]. The behavioral effects of moderate PAE were primarily limited to males and were not ameliorated by housing with a non-ethanol exposed partner. Unexpectedly, social behavior, motor behavior, and spatial flexibility were adversely affected in control rats housed with a PAE rat (i.e., in mixed housing), indicating that housing with a PAE rat has broad behavioral consequences beyond the social domain. These observations provide further evidence that moderate PAE negatively affects social behavior, and underscore the importance of considering potential negative effects of housing with PAE animals on the behavior of critical comparison groups.Copyright © 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • July 2016