University of Kentucky

Poster Title

Three Studies Examining the Effects of Prenatal or Adolescent Exposure to Alcohol and/or Nicotine in Rats:The Effects of “3rd trimester” Alcohol and Nicotine Exposure on Memory in Rats

Institution

University of Kentucky

Abstract

Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition caused by chronic alcohol exposure during pregnancy that causes deficits in learning and memory function. Although there is a high co-morbidity between alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy, little research has been done to study the interaction between these two commonly used substances. Using a rodent model, rats were given these drugs neonatally during the “brain growth spurt” which occurs primarily during the 3rd trimester of human pregnancy. Rats were treated on postnatal days 1-7 with either alcohol, nicotine, or a combination of alcohol and nicotine (and appropriate controls). Memory was examined using a standard spatial learning task (the Radial Eight Arm Maze) during adolescence. Males with previous nicotine exposure showed improved performance during the 2nd week of testing. Nicotine (not smoking) has been shown to have cognitive enhancing properties (via stimulation of cholinergic neurons) and these data suggest that neonatal nicotine exposure (at least in males) showed this effect. Of significant importance, combining nicotine with ethanol eliminated any cognitive enhancement.

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Three Studies Examining the Effects of Prenatal or Adolescent Exposure to Alcohol and/or Nicotine in Rats:The Effects of “3rd trimester” Alcohol and Nicotine Exposure on Memory in Rats

Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition caused by chronic alcohol exposure during pregnancy that causes deficits in learning and memory function. Although there is a high co-morbidity between alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy, little research has been done to study the interaction between these two commonly used substances. Using a rodent model, rats were given these drugs neonatally during the “brain growth spurt” which occurs primarily during the 3rd trimester of human pregnancy. Rats were treated on postnatal days 1-7 with either alcohol, nicotine, or a combination of alcohol and nicotine (and appropriate controls). Memory was examined using a standard spatial learning task (the Radial Eight Arm Maze) during adolescence. Males with previous nicotine exposure showed improved performance during the 2nd week of testing. Nicotine (not smoking) has been shown to have cognitive enhancing properties (via stimulation of cholinergic neurons) and these data suggest that neonatal nicotine exposure (at least in males) showed this effect. Of significant importance, combining nicotine with ethanol eliminated any cognitive enhancement.