The Role of Neurochemistry in Behavioural Teratology and Toxicology

  • Vincenzo Cuomo
  • Giorgio Racagni
Conference paper
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 100)


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.


Locomotor Activity Prenatal Exposure Neurochemical Change Methylmercury Exposure Antianxiety Agent 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vincenzo Cuomo
    • 1
  • Giorgio Racagni
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Pharmacology, Institute of Pharmacology and PharmacognosyUniversity of BariItaly
  2. 2.Institute of Pharmacology, Institute of Pharmacology and PharmacognosyUniversity of Bari, University of MilanItaly

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