Biomedical Engineering ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 12-14-2018


Prenatal alcohol and early life stress exposure are associated with reduced levels of BDNF in the frontal cortex. Several studies have implicated (BDNF) in frontal cortex as important contributor of learning and memory. In the present study, we look to determine whether early housing conditions could mitigate the impact of prenatal alcohol exposure on learning as well as BDNF expression in sex-specific manner in frontal cortex of mice. Compared to control, prenatal alcohol mice expresses reduced total BDNF levels and displayed reduced freezing behavior response during contextual fear conditioning in both female and male mice. Female displayed increased BDNF levels compared to male in control group, thus displaying sex-specific expression of BDNF.

Prenatal alcohol was associated with reduced levels of BDNF caused by reduced expression of variant 3 (exon IV) and variant 4 (exon VI) in the frontal cortex. While contextual fear condition was associated with decreased variant 4 and invalidation of BDNF. Mice from dams that were communally housed exhibited higher freezing behavior in prenatal alcohol mice even with reduced levels of variant 3, variant 4 and BDNF in male and female. These results indicate that prenatal alcohol exposure reduces BDNF levels and reduces fear learning behavior in mice and some of these deficits are mitigated by pre and early postnatal rearing environments. These results are discussed relative to the impact of prenatal ethanol and housing on stress and stress behavior responding.

Document Type


Degree Name

Biomedical Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Biomedical Engineering

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Andrea Allan

Second Committee Member

Dr. Kevin Caldwell

Third Committee Member

Dr. Steven Graves