Article Text

  1. B. W. Barsness,
  2. T. Martenson,
  3. R. Paz,
  4. A. Allan
  1. Albuquerque, NM.


Purpose The Surgeon General's 2001 report entitled “Women and Smoking” found that between 12% (from studies of birth certificates) to 22% (according to surveys) of U.S. mothers smoked while pregnant. Many studies have demonstrated that infants prenatally exposed to nicotine show more signs of stress, hyper-excitability, and addictability, as well as oppositional, aggressive and overactive behavior. Nicotine, a predominant substance found in cigarettes, also functions as a neurotransmitter at Nicotinic Acetycholine Receptors (nAChRs). It has been demonstrated that chronic nicotine exposure in mice leads to down-regulation of existing nAChRs. Such findings suggest that Prenatal Nicotine Exposure (PNE) may affect the development of nAChR-regulated pathways, thereby producing the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral abnormalities found in offspring prenatally exposed to nicotine.

Methods During gestation, 12 female dams were fed a nicotine/saccharine solution, 12 other female dams were fed a nicotine/water solution, for a total of 24 dams. A power analysis was used to identify the minimum number of animals needed to avoid a Type II error. A sample size of at least 10 would provide a 90% power for significance determinations. There were three arms to the study. 1) Locomotor Activity Measurement- Quantified via Opto-varimex were the following behaviors: horizontal activity, total distance traveled, ambulatory time, rest time, vertical activity, stereotypic activity, and time spent in stereotypic activity. 2) Learned Helplessness- Mice were conditioned to associate a tone with a subsequent foot shock. In a novel, environment mice were again exposed to the tone without shock. Mice were observed for freezing behavior as a measure of learning. 3) Place Preference- Mice were conditioned with either a saline or cocaine injection in two distinct rooms and isolated in each room, respectively. Mice were later allowed free access to either room. Time spent in the drug-paired side was compared to time spent in the saline-paired side.

Results PNE mice were shown to be more hyperactive, displayed greater learning of painful stimuli, and exhibited enhanced addictability compared to non-PNE mice.

Conclusions The negative and numerous effects of inhaling smoke have been generally known for sometime. Our research shows that aside from the negative effects of second-hand smoke exposure, there are negative effects from second-hand nicotine exposure, as well. A greater effort must be made by proponents of public health to prevent women from smoking while pregnant.

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