The effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on odor associative learning in rats

Susan Barron, Wendy A. Gagnon, Sarah N. Mattson, Lori E. Kotch, Linda S. Meyer, Edward P. Riley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Alcohol was administered to pregnant females via a liquid diet that contained either 35% ethanol-derived calories (35% EDC) or 0% EDC on gestation days 6-20. An ad lib lab chow group (LC) was also included. In Experiment 1, odor-aversion learning was examined in 10-day-old offspring. While both the 0% EDC and LC groups displayed odor aversions, the 35% EDC offspring did not. In Experiment 2, learning was assessed in an appetitive paradigm in three-day-old offspring. Once again, the 35% EDC offspring showed no evidence of learning. Experiment 3 examined odor-aversion learning in adults. Both alcohol-exposed offspring and controls learned the odor association equally well. These findings suggest that odor associative learning is a sensitive indicator for alcohol-related learning deficits in rat pups although these deficits may dissipate as the offspring matures. Since odor associations play a critical role in neonatal behaviors, these deficits may help explain other behavioral anomalies noted following prenatal alcohol exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-339
Number of pages7
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1988


  • Behavioral teratology
  • Neonatal learning
  • Odor associative learning
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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