Training on motor and visual spatial learning tasks in early adulthood produces large changes in dendritic organization of prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens in rats given nicotine prenatally

A. Muhammad, R. Mychasiuk, S. Hosain, A. Nakahashi, C. Carroll, R. Gibb, B. Kolb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Experience-dependent plasticity is an ongoing process that can be observed and measured at multiple levels. The first goal of this study was to examine the effects of prenatal nicotine on the performance of rats in three behavioral tasks (elevated plus maze (EPM), Morris water task (MWT), and Whishaw tray reaching). The second goal of this experiment sought to examine changes in dendritic organization following exposure to the behavioral training paradigm and/or low doses of prenatal nicotine. Female Long-Evans rats were administered daily injections of nicotine for the duration of pregnancy and their pups underwent a regimen of behavioral training in early adulthood (EPM, MWT, and Whishaw tray reaching). All offspring exposed to nicotine prenatally exhibited substantial increases in anxiety. Male offspring also showed increased efficiency in the Whishaw tray-reaching task and performed differently than the other groups in the probe trial of the MWT. Using Golgi-Cox staining we examined the dendritic organization of the medial and orbital prefrontal cortex as well as the nucleus accumbens. Participation in the behavioral training paradigm was associated with dramatic reorganization of dendritic morphology and spine density in all brain regions examined. Although both treatments (behavior training and prenatal nicotine exposure) markedly altered dendritic organization, the effects of the behavioral experience were much larger than those of the prenatal drug exposure, and in some cases interacted with the drug effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-189
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2013


  • Development
  • Golgi-Cox Staining
  • MPFC
  • OFC
  • Spine density

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