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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

Society for Neuroscience

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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Article: 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
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0607-18.2018
Corresponding author: Janice Juraska (University of Illinois, Champaign, USA), jjuraska@illinois.edu

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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