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Growth restriction alters adult spatial memory and sensorimotor gating in a sex-specific manner

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2011

B. Lauritz
Department of Physiology, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic., Australia
A. L. Siebel
Department of Physiology, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic., Australia
V. Guille
Integrative Neuroscience Facility, Howard Florey Institute, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic., Australia
A. J. Jefferies
Department of Physiology, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic., Australia
M. E. Wlodek
Department of Physiology, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic., Australia
E-mail address:


In Western society, impaired uteroplacental blood flow is the major cause of human intrauterine growth restriction. Infants born small and who experience late childhood accelerated growth have an increased risk of developing adult diseases. Recent studies also suggest a link between birth weight and altered adult behavior, particularly relating to motor function, learning and memory, depression and schizophrenia. The aim of this study was to determine the relative influence of prenatal and postnatal growth restriction on adult behavioral outcomes in male and female rats. Uteroplacental insufficiency was induced in Wistar Kyoto rats by bilateral uterine vessel ligation on day 18 of gestation producing growth-restricted offspring (Restricted group). The Control group had sham surgery. Another group underwent sham surgery, with a reduction in litter size to five at birth equivalent to the Restricted litter size (Reduced Litter group). At 6 months of age, a series of behavioral tests were conducted in male and female offspring. Growth restriction did not impair motor function. In fact, Restricted and Reduced Litter males showed enhanced motor performance compared with Controls (P < 0.05). Spatial memory was greater in Restricted females only (P < 0.05). The Porsolts test was unremarkable, however, males exhibited more depressive-like behavior than females (P < 0.05). A reduction in sensorimotor gating function was identified in Reduced Litter males and females (P < 0.05). We have demonstrated that growth restriction and/or a poor lactational environment can affect adult rat behavior, particularly balance and coordination, memory and learning, and sensorimotor gating function, in a sex-specific manner.

Original Articles
Copyright © Cambridge University Press and the International Society for Developmental Origins of Health and Disease 2011

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Co-first authors: Contributed equally to this work.


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