Low Dose Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Does Not Impair Spatial Learning and Memory in Two Tests in Adult and Aged Rats
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AbstractConsumption of alcohol during pregnancy can have detrimental impacts on the developing hippocampus, which can lead to deficits in learning and memory function. Although high levels of alcohol exposure can lead to severe deficits, there is a lack of research examining the effects of low levels of exposure. This study used a rat model to determine if prenatal exposure to chronic low dose ethanol would result in deficits in learning and memory performance and if this was associated with morphological changes within the hippocampus. Sprague Dawley rats were fed a liquid diet containing 6% (vol/vol) ethanol (EtOH) or an isocaloric control diet throughout gestation. Male and Female offspring underwent behavioural testing at 8 (Adult) or 15 months (Aged) of age. Brains from these animals were collected for stereological analysis of pyramidal neuron number and dendritic morphology within the CA1 and CA3 regions of the dorsal hippocampus. Prenatal ethanol exposed animals did not differ in spatial learning or memory performance in the Morris water maze or Y maze tasks compared to Control offspring. There was no effect of prenatal ethanol exposure on pyramidal cell number or density within the dorsal hippocampus. Overall, this study indicates that chronic low dose prenatal ethanol exposure in this model does not have long term detrimental effects on pyramidal cells within the dorsal hippocampus or impair spatial learning and memory performance.