Reversal learning after prenatal or early postnatal alcohol exposure in juvenile and adult rats

Shonagh K. O'Leary-Moore, Andrew P. McMechan, Shannon N. Mathison, Robert F. Berman, John H. Hannigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Learning tasks that require the reversal of a previously learned contingency are disrupted in animals and humans exposed to alcohol during the perinatal period. The current experiments examined how varying the time of alcohol exposure and the age at which subjects were tested would affect the expression of reversal deficits in a T-maze task. Groups of rats were exposed to alcohol from gestational day (GD) 8 to GD20 or from postnatal day (PN) 4 to PN9, and then tested in a spatial reversal task at either PN28 or PN63. Results indicate that exposure to alcohol during the prenatal period did not lead to substantial dose-dependent reversal learning deficits in males or females at either age tested. However, exposure to alcohol during the early postnatal period, a period that corresponds to the third trimester in human neural development, selectively disrupted reversal learning performance in male rats at PN28 but not PN63. Statistically significant sex differences were seen when subjects were tested at PN63. These results demonstrate how the timing of alcohol exposure leads to variability in the age-dependent expression of learning deficits associated with fetal alcohol effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-110
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006


  • Adult
  • Alcohol
  • Animal Model (rat)
  • Behavior
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Juvenile
  • Neonatal
  • Prenatal
  • Reversal Learning
  • T-maze

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Medicine(all)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Toxicology
  • Health(social science)


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