No Effect of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Activity in Three Inbred Strains of Mice

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Prenatal exposure to alcohol can have adverse effects on the developing fetus. Two of the hallmarks of children exposed to alcohol prenatally are attention deficits and hyperactivity. While hyperactivity has been observed in rats following prenatal ethanol exposure, few studies have examined these effects in mice. The present study investigated the effects of prenatal ethanol exposure on activity in mice from three inbred strains: C57BL/6 (B6), Inbred Long Sleep (ILS) and Inbred Short Sleep (ISS).


On Days 7 through 18 of gestation, mice were intragastrically intubated twice daily with either 3.0 g/kg ethanol (E) or an isocaloric amount of maltose–dextrin (MD); non-intubated control (NIC) litters were also generated. Offspring activity was monitored at 30, 60, 90 and 150 days of age.


While results showed no effects of prenatal ethanol exposure on any measures of activity, we did observe differences in baseline activity among the strains. ISS mice were more active than B6 and ILS for all activity measures except stereotypy; B6 mice had higher measures of stereotypy than ILS and ISS. Younger mice were more active than older mice. The only sex effects were on measures of stereotypy, where males had higher scores.


Mice are an excellent organism to study genetic influences on many phenotypes. However, our study and others have shown few effects of prenatal ethanol exposure on behavior in mice. It appears as if the prenatal period in mice, corresponding to organogenesis, is not a sensitive period for producing behavioral deficits following ethanol exposure. It is likely that the first 2 weeks postnatally, corresponding to the brain growth spurt, are more sensitive for producing behavioral effects.

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