Date of Award

Spring 5-9-2020

Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

William G. Mayhan

Second Advisor

Barbara E. Goodman

Third Advisor

Angela Landeen


FASD, cognitive dysfunction, alcohol, in utero, behavioral test, rat, behavior

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


In utero exposure to alcohol can result in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), which encompasses a range of developmental disorders. The prevalence of FASD has been estimated to impact approximately 40,000 children in the U.S. each year. These individuals are at a greater risk for cognitive dysfunction, dementia, and seizures. The goal of this study was to determine the influence of in utero exposure to alcohol on cognition and behavior in adolescent and adult rats. Pregnant rats were fed an alcohol diet (3% alcohol) throughout their gestational period or control diet (no alcohol). Pups were weaned and pair-housed within sex and treatment groups, under reverse 12-hour light 12-hour dark cycle and allowed to reach 4 weeks of age prior to behavioral testing. Cognitive and social behavior was evaluated using a Novel Object Recognition task (NOR), a Spatial T-maze test, and a Social Interaction test (SI). Upon completion of adolescent testing, each pair was allowed to reach adulthood undisturbed, before repeating the tests at 14 weeks of age. Our results suggest that rats exposed to alcohol in utero have a significant impairment in working memory (short-term), suggesting cognitive impairment, however, only sex and age differences were revealed in spatial/long-term memory and SI. Taken together, rats exposed to in utero alcohol exhibit behavioral deficits indicative of impairments found in children affected by FASD, which can be used to further explore the relationships between physiology and cognitive dysfunction.



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