Differential effects of prenatal cocaine and retinoic acid on activity level throughout day and night.
ABSTRACT Prenatal cocaine exposure is associated with disrupted state control and lowered activity levels. Prenatal retinoic acid excess also influences activity levels in laboratory rats. Activity level is usually monitored during a brief period in young offspring. The effects of these drugs on pup activity levels throughout the day is unknown. There is also little information on the long-lasting effects of these teratogens in adult animals. We compared the daily activity of rats which were prenatally exposed to cocaine or retinoic acid (RA). Appropriate control groups were also used. The offspring were evaluated for activity levels in a neophobic situation and for a 22-h period in same-sex groups of 3 littermates. As both pups and adults, the cocaine groups were hypoactive while the RA group was hyperactive when first placed into the testing cage (neophobic situation). Similarly, during the remainder of the 22-h testing period, the pup and adult cocaine animals exhibited reduced activity levels while the RA animals exhibited elevated activity levels. Thus, prenatal cocaine and retinoic acid exposures affected offspring activity levels differently, both drugs have long-lasting neurobehavioral effects that persist into adulthood, and effects are influenced by time-of-day. Strain-dependent differences and mechanisms of action are discussed.