Developmental exposure to near roadway pollution produces behavioral phenotypes relevant to neurodevelopmental disorders in juvenile rats

Elizabeth L. Berg, Lauren R. Pedersen, Michael C. Pride, Stela P. Petkova, Kelley T. Patten, Anthony E. Valenzuela, Christopher Wallis, Keith J. Bein, Anthony Stein Wexler, Pamela J. Lein, Jill L. Silverman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Epidemiological studies consistently implicate traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) and/or proximity to heavily trafficked roads as risk factors for developmental delays and neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs); however, there are limited preclinical data demonstrating a causal relationship. To test the effects of TRAP, pregnant rat dams were transported to a vivarium adjacent to a major freeway tunnel system in northern California where they were exposed to TRAP drawn directly from the face of the tunnel or filtered air (FA). Offspring remained housed under the exposure condition into which they were born and were tested in a variety of behavioral assays between postnatal day 4 and 50. To assess the effects of near roadway exposure, offspring of dams housed in a standard research vivarium were tested at the laboratory. An additional group of dams was transported halfway to the facility and then back to the laboratory to control for the effect of potential transport stress. Near roadway exposure delayed growth and development of psychomotor reflexes and elicited abnormal activity in open field locomotion. Near roadway exposure also reduced isolation-induced 40-kHz pup ultrasonic vocalizations, with the TRAP group having the lowest number of call emissions. TRAP affected some components of social communication, evidenced by reduced neonatal pup ultrasonic calling and altered juvenile reciprocal social interactions. These findings confirm that living in close proximity to highly trafficked roadways during early life alters neurodevelopment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number289
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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