Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are one of the leading causes of developmental abnormalities worldwide. Maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy leads to a diverse range of cognitive and neurobehavioral deficits. Although moderate-to-heavy levels of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) have been associated with adverse offspring outcomes, there is limited data on the consequences of chronic low-level PAE. Here, we use a model of maternal voluntary alcohol consumption throughout gestation in a mouse model to investigate the effects of PAE on behavioral phenotypes during late adolescence and early adulthood in male and female offspring. Body composition was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Baseline behaviors, including feeding, drinking, and movement, were examined by performing home cage monitoring studies. The impact of PAE on motor function, motor skill learning, hyperactivity, acoustic reactivity, and sensorimotor gating was investigated by performing a battery of behavioral tests. PAE was found to be associated with altered body composition. No differences in overall movement, food, or water consumption were observed between control and PAE mice. Although PAE offspring of both sexes exhibited deficits in motor skill learning, no differences were observed in basic motor skills such as grip strength and motor coordination. PAE females exhibited a hyperactive phenotype in a novel environment. PAE mice exhibited increased reactivity to acoustic stimuli, and PAE females showed disrupted short-term habituation. Sensorimotor gating was not altered in PAE mice. Collectively, our data show that chronic low-level exposure to alcohol in utero results in behavioral impairments.
- body composition
- fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
- prenatal alcohol exposure
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience