Prenatal alcohol exposure decreases social play behavior in adolescent offspring.
Alcohol exposure decreases neuronal activation in the prefrontal cortex in offspring.
Dams exposed to alcohol during pregnancy did not alter their maternal behavior.
Prenatal ethanol exposure affects brain development and causes neural impairment, leading to both cognitive and behavioral consequences in the offspring. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the impact of prenatal exposure to small amounts of alcohol on social play behavior in adolescent male offspring.
Swiss mice were prenatally exposed to ethanol by feeding pregnant dams with a liquid diet containing 25% alcohol-derived calories during gestation (alcohol group). They were then compared to both pair-fed dams that received an isocaloric liquid diet containing 0% alcohol-derived calories (pair-fed group) and dams with ad libitum access to a liquid control diet (control group). Additionally, maternal behavior was evaluated in terms of neural activation indexed via c-fos expression in the prefrontal cortex.
Although dams exposed to alcohol during pregnancy did not alter their maternal behavior, the offspring presented a decrease in their social play behavior compared with both control and pair-fed offspring. The decrease in social play behavior may be associated with a decrease in number of c-fos-positive cells in the prefrontal cortex.
The exposure to small amounts of alcohol during intrauterine development causes both a deficit in social play behavior and a reduction in the neuronal activity seen in the prefrontal cortex.