Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Winter 12-15-2021


Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) is associated with structural and physiological changes that impact the central nervous system and can result in persistent negative consequences in a broad spectrum of cognitive and behavioral domains including deficits in spatial learning and memory and behavioral flexibility. The current study focuses on examining the behavioral and mechanistic consequences of PAE, sex and housing. Rats were tested in the Morris Water Task where they were trained to navigate to a goal location and tested in a pool shift manipulation. There were no significant differences between PAE treatment, sex, or housing groups during training, but there was a significant interaction in the females between preference for the directional or place location and PAE. Most groups had a preference for the directional location or had no preference, while PAE mixed housed females displayed a preference for the place location. Freely, moving in-vivo electrophysiology measures were acquired in a dry land version of the shift manipulation. These recordings showed a significant sex X treatment X housing interaction which was driven by a decreased correlation in the mixed-housed Sac males. Mixed-housed PAE females show differential spatial navigation behavior in the MWT and the mixed-housed Sac males showed decreased hippocampal cell correlation through the dry land version of the shift manipulation. These outcomes suggest that rats have distinct navigational behavior that is sex and housing specific and can be influenced by PAE, but these behavioral changes are not necessarily due to alterations in hippocampal firing.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Derek A Hamilton

Second Committee Member

Dr. Daniel D Savage

Third Committee Member

Dr. Benjamin Clark

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Nathan Pentkowski




prenatal alcohol exposure, morris water task, hippocampal place cells

Document Type