Gestational nicotine exposure is associated with cognitive abnormalities in young offspring. However, practical strategies for prevention or treatment of impaired cognitive behaviors of offspring are not available due to the lack of systematic investigation of underlying mechanism. Therefore, this study aimed at examining the effects of gestational and/or perinatal nicotine exposure (GPNE) on cognitive behaviors in offspring of C57BL/6J mice to provide systematic behavioral data. Pregnant mice were exposed to nicotine via sweetened drinking water during six time-windows, including gestational day 0 to day 13 (G0-G13), G14-postnatal day 0 (P0), G0-P0, G14-P7, G0-P7, and P0-P7. During P42-P56 days, both male and female offspring were given a battery of behavioral tests. Depending on the time of exposure, GPNE impaired working memory, object-based attention, and prepulse inhibition in male and female offspring to different extents. Nicotine exposure during G14-P0 also decreased norepinephrine turnover in the prefrontal cortex on P28 and P56. Overall results indicate that nicotine exposure during any time-windows of development impairs cognitive behaviors in offspring, and suggest that certain time-windows, e.g., G14-P0, should be selected for further studies on the underlying neurochemical or molecular mechanisms.
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