The effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on radial arm maze performance in adult rats

Physiol Behav. 1989 Jul;46(1):45-8. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(89)90319-3.


The hippocampal formation is sensitive to the in utero exposure to ethanol. It is one brain area thought to play an important role in spatial memory. We examined radial arm maze performance in rats exposed to ethanol prenatally. Pregnant rats were placed into the following treatment groups: LC, 17% EDC (ethanol-derived calories), 35% EDC, PF 35% or PF 17%. The LC group was fed lab chow and water ad lib, the 17% EDC and 35% EDC groups were fed a liquid diet containing either 3.3% or 6.7% v/v ethanol, respectively. Pair-fed controls were fed the same volume of an isocaloric diet as was consumed by their respective ethanol-treated groups. At birth, litters were culled to six and cross fostered to untreated surrogate mothers. Testing was initiated at 60 days of age and continued until the test criterion was satisfied. One-half of the rats in the 35% EDC group did not reach criterion. The remainder of the 35% EDC group and the 17% EDC rats attained criterion but required twice as many trials as their respective pair-fed controls. These results suggest that in utero administration of ethanol affects spatial memory capacity in rat, an observation consistent with other deficits seen in hippocampus of rats prenatally exposed to ethanol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / drug effects*
  • Discrimination Learning / drug effects*
  • Ethanol / pharmacokinetics
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / psychology*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Mental Recall / drug effects*
  • Orientation / drug effects*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Ethanol