Poster Title

Neonatal Exposure to Agmatine Does Not Improve Spatial Memory in Ethanol Exposed Rats.

Presenter Information

Dawn Virag, University of Kentucky

Institution

University of Kentucky

Abstract

Children exposed to ethanol prenatally show a variety of behavioral problems including learning and memory deficits. In this study, we investigated the effects of neonatal ethanol and/or agmatine exposure on spatial learning using a rodent model. The neonatal exposure model is used because this developmental period is similar, in terms of central nervous system development, to the third trimester “brain growth spurt” in humans. While ethanol affects many areas of the brain, the hippocampus (important for learning and spatial memory) appears particularly sensitive. Agmatine is thought to protect the brain during ethanol withdrawal by decreasing neuronal death due to over-excitation, thus possibly reducing some of ethanol’s effects. Rats were intubated twice daily with either ethanol, agmatine, both ethanol and agmatine, or an isocaloric control diet. A non-treated control group was also included. At 30 days of age, offspring (10/sex and treatment group) were tested in the Barnes Maze, a circular platform with 18 holes around the edge and an escape box hidden under one of the holes. The subject had to learn to find this escape box to avoid bright light and noise. We hypothesized that neonatal rats exposed to ethanol would show poorer performance on this spatial task, however, results indicated that performance was not significantly impaired. Further work is currently underway to make the task more difficult. These results are also in contrast with other recent findings from our laboratory suggesting that ethanol impaired balance and coordination, with improved performance by offspring that received ethanol and agmatine.

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Neonatal Exposure to Agmatine Does Not Improve Spatial Memory in Ethanol Exposed Rats.

Children exposed to ethanol prenatally show a variety of behavioral problems including learning and memory deficits. In this study, we investigated the effects of neonatal ethanol and/or agmatine exposure on spatial learning using a rodent model. The neonatal exposure model is used because this developmental period is similar, in terms of central nervous system development, to the third trimester “brain growth spurt” in humans. While ethanol affects many areas of the brain, the hippocampus (important for learning and spatial memory) appears particularly sensitive. Agmatine is thought to protect the brain during ethanol withdrawal by decreasing neuronal death due to over-excitation, thus possibly reducing some of ethanol’s effects. Rats were intubated twice daily with either ethanol, agmatine, both ethanol and agmatine, or an isocaloric control diet. A non-treated control group was also included. At 30 days of age, offspring (10/sex and treatment group) were tested in the Barnes Maze, a circular platform with 18 holes around the edge and an escape box hidden under one of the holes. The subject had to learn to find this escape box to avoid bright light and noise. We hypothesized that neonatal rats exposed to ethanol would show poorer performance on this spatial task, however, results indicated that performance was not significantly impaired. Further work is currently underway to make the task more difficult. These results are also in contrast with other recent findings from our laboratory suggesting that ethanol impaired balance and coordination, with improved performance by offspring that received ethanol and agmatine.