Object-Recognition and Spatial Learning and Memory in Rats Prenatally Exposed to Ethanol

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Prenatal ethanol exposure can produce cognitive and behavioral impairments. In the present study, rats from prenatal ethanol (E), pair-fed (PF), and ad libitum–fed control (C) treatment conditions were tested on the object-recognition delayed-nonmatching-to-sample (DNMS) task with nonrecurring items and on the spatial-navigation Morris water maze task. In Experiment 1, there were no significant differences among groups in object-recognition learning and memory, distractibility, or response perseveration on the DNMS task. In Experiment 2, the same rats were tested in the water maze; E rats took significantly longer to learn the task than did the PF or C rats. These data suggest that the mechanisms underlying spatial cognitive abilities are more vulnerable to the teratogenic effects of prenatal ethanol exposure than those underlying object-recognition abilities.

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