Rationale: Clinical and experimental evidence have demonstrated that alcohol consumption during pregnancy can disrupt brain development, leading to a variety of behavioral alterations including hyperactivity, motor dysfunction, and cognitive deficits in offsprings. Alcohol-induced neurocognitive deficits are associated with activation of oxidative-inflammatory cascade coupled with extensive apoptotic neurodegeneration in different brain regions.
Objectives: The present study was designed with an aim to investigate the protective effect of curcumin, a principal curcuminoid present in the Indian spice turmeric, against alcohol-induced cognitive deficits, neuroinflammation, and neuronal apoptosis in rat pups postnatally exposed to ethanol.
Methods and results: Male Wistar rat pups were administered ethanol (5 g/kg, 12 % v/v) by intragastric intubation on postnatal days (PD) 7, 8, and 9 and were treated with curcumin (30 and 60 mg/kg) from PD 6 to 28. Performance of ethanol-exposed pups that did not receive curcumin was significantly impaired as evaluated in both Morris water maze and elevated plus maze tasks recorded by using computer tracking. Cognitive deficit was associated with enhanced acetylcholinesterase activity, increased neuroinflammation (oxidative-nitrosative stress, TNF-α, IL-1β, and TGF-β1), and neuronal apoptosis (NF-κβ and caspase 3) in both cerebral cortex and hippocampus of ethanol-exposed pups. Chronic treatment with curcumin significantly ameliorated all the behavioral, biochemical, and molecular alterations in different brain regions of ethanol-exposed pups.
Conclusions: The current study demonstrates the possible involvement of oxidative-inflammatory cascade-mediated apoptotic signaling in cognitive deficits associated with postnatal ethanol exposure and points towards the neuroprotective potential of curcumin in mitigating alcohol-induced behavioral, biochemical, and molecular deficits.