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Study indicates nicotine exposure from e-cigarettes during late prenatal and early postnatal life may cause persistent behavioral change (PLOS One)

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On September 15, 2015, a study was published in PLOS One (funded by FAMRI and the National Institutes of Health) on the likelihood of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) from nicotine exposure via e-liquid nicotine. The study was conducted because nicotine exposure has been associated with an increased likelihood of developing ADHD in offspring of mothers who smoked during pregnancy. The goal of this study was to determine if exposure to E-cigarette nicotine vapors during late prenatal and early postnatal life altered behavior in adult mice.

Pregnant mice were exposed to 2.4% nicotine in propylene glycol (PG) or 0% nicotine /PG once a day from gestational day 15 until delivery. After delivery, offspring and mothers were exposed to E-cigarette vapors for an additional 14 days from postnatal day 2 through 16. Following their last exposure serum cotinine levels were measured in female juvenile mice. Male mice underwent behavioral testing at 14 weeks of age to assess sensorimotor, affective, and cognitive functional domains.

Adult male mice exposed to 2.4% nicotine/PG E-cigarette vapors had significantly more head dips in the zero maze test and higher levels of rearing activity in the open field test compared to 0% nicotine/PG exposed mice and untreated controls. In the water maze test after reversal training, the 2.4% nicotine/PG mice spent more than 25% of time in the new location whereas the other groups did not.

Conclusion: Adult male mice exhibited increased levels of activity in the zero maze and open field tests when exposed to E-cigarette vapor containing nicotine during late prenatal and early postnatal life. These findings indicate that nicotine exposure from E-cigarettes may cause persistent behavioral changes when exposure occurs during a period of rapid brain growth.