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Plastic chemical linked to smaller prefrontal cortex, reduced cognitive ability in rats

Findings demonstrate long-term influence of endocrine-disrupting compounds on brain development

Date:
July 16, 2018
Source:
Society for Neuroscience
Summary:
Adult rats that had been exposed before birth and during nursing to a mixture of chemicals found in a wide range of consumer products have a smaller medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and perform worse on an attention-switching task than rats not exposed to the chemicals early in life. These findings demonstrate a long-term influence of endocrine-disrupting compounds on brain development.
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Adult rats that had been exposed before birth and during nursing to a mixture of chemicals found in a wide range of consumer products have a smaller medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and perform worse on an attention-switching task than rats not exposed to the chemicals early in life. These findings, published in JNeurosci, demonstrate a long-term influence of endocrine-disrupting compounds on brain development.

Phthalates -- chemicals used in plastics belonging to the same class as Bisphenol A (BPA) -- can potentially interfere with hormones important for the developing brain.

Although previous studies have identified associations between phthalate exposure and developmental disturbances, little is known about the neurobiology underlying these relationships.

Janice Juraska and colleagues fed pregnant rats a daily cookie laced with human level doses of a chemical mixture based on data obtained from pregnant women. The researchers found both male and female adult offspring of these rats had fewer neurons and synapses in their mPFC and a specific deficit in cognitive flexibility.

As the mPFC is crucial for high level cognitive functions and reduced cognitive flexibility is observed in developmental disorders such as autism, the research shows how early life phthalate exposure can affect the brain and behavior.


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Journal Reference:

  1. Daniel G. Kougias, Elli P. Sellinger, Jari Willing, Janice M. Juraska. Perinatal exposure to an environmentally relevant mixture of phthalates results in a lower number of neurons and synapses in the medial prefrontal cortex and decreased cognitive flexibility in adult male and female rats. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2018; 0607-18 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0607-18.2018

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Society for Neuroscience. "Plastic chemical linked to smaller prefrontal cortex, reduced cognitive ability in rats." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 July 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180716130738.htm>.
Society for Neuroscience. (2018, July 16). Plastic chemical linked to smaller prefrontal cortex, reduced cognitive ability in rats. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 22, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180716130738.htm
Society for Neuroscience. "Plastic chemical linked to smaller prefrontal cortex, reduced cognitive ability in rats." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180716130738.htm (accessed May 22, 2024).

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