Mice were exposed to alcohol on a single day of early pregnancy, during a critical period of brain development. The alcohol-exposed offspring and controls grew to early adolescence, then were tested them on a variety of behavioral tasks and imaged their brains with high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Both male and female adolescent mice exposed to alcohol during early gestation performed significantly worse on several behavioral tasks compared to controls, and the specific pattern of task deficiencies were dependent on sex. These ethanol-induced behavioral deficits occurred in the absence of brain regional volumetric changes as measured by MRI, although there were some subtle regional shape alterations.
These data show that acute exposure to ethanol during early pregnancy can have long-lasting effects on adolescent behavior. These changes can occur without alterations in the volume of the brain or specific regions of the brain, although there were ethanol-induced differences in the shape of some brain regions.
Acute alcohol exposure during neurulation: Behavioral and brain structural consequences in adolescent C57BL/6J mice