Infant rats respond differently to alcohol after nursing from an alcohol-intoxicated dam

Marta Yanina Pepino, Marcelo Fernando López, Norman E. Spear, Juan Carlos Molina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our previous studies indicate that rat pups are able to detect the low levels of ethanol (175 mg %) found in the milk of a moderately intoxicated dam. The present study tested the effect of infantile interactions (including suckling) with ethanol-treated mothers on later behavioral responsiveness to ethanol's sensory properties. In Experiment 1, pups suckled from dams subjected to a 2.5 g/kg ethanol dose (i.g.) or water-treated females during postnatal days (PDs) 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13. During PD 15, these pups were exposed to procedures to induce a conditioned aversion to the low level of ethanol (175 mg % in water), with lithium chloride as the unconditioned stimulus. Conditioning was more effective for pups with the prior ethanol experience within the nursing context. Greater responsiveness to ethanol in milk also was found for conditioning control pups that had interacted with intoxicated dams than for those that had interacted with water-treated dams. Experiment 2 determined that interaction with an intoxicated dam was sufficient for altered responsiveness to ethanol, in that the additional conditioning procedures of Experiment 1 were not needed for the effect. Generally, a relatively brief history of infantile interaction with ethanol- intoxicated dams increased later responsiveness to ethanol's orosensory properties. The results suggest that moderately intoxicated dams within the nursing context provide information to the progeny that may lead to the establishment of ethanol-related memories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-201
Number of pages13
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jun 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Associative learning
  • Behavioral detection
  • Ethanol
  • Facial wiping
  • Habituation
  • Locomotion
  • Maternal behavior
  • Milk
  • Mouthing
  • Nursing
  • Preweanling rat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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