The Role of Neurochemistry in Behavioural Teratology and Toxicology
Prenatal exposure to various drugs and environmental chemicals can cause abnormal embryonic or fetal development which results in alterations of structural and/or functional nature. Teratology, until the early 1970s, was concerned almost exclusively with the production of gross structural malformations with little focus on functional manifestations (Hutchings, 1978). In these last years, a newer aspect of teratology, focused on function instead of structure is achieving prominence. Postnatal functional abnormalities elicited by prenatal exposures may range from changes expressed as metabolic alterations to defects revealed mainly as behavioural deficits, hence the term “behavioural teratology” (Evans and Weiss, 1978). In this regard, it has been shown that a toxic effect may be detected by subtle behavioural changes before any of the classical symptoms of poisoning appear, and that there are substances which act as pure behavioural teratogens (Vorhees, 1979; Alder, 1983). Our recent findings and those of other authors have demonstrated that results of behavioural teratology and toxicology tests can fruitfully be compared to neurochemical data from the same animals. In this regard, neurochemical correlates of a behavioural dysfunction can help pinpoint neuronal systems involved in the behavioural change.
KeywordsLocomotor Activity Prenatal Exposure Neurochemical Change Methylmercury Exposure Antianxiety Agent
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