Rats are more attracted to liquor’s smell during puberty if their mothers were given alcohol during pregnancy.
Researchers have shown that rats exposed during gestation find the smell of alcohol on another rat’s breath during adolescence more attractive than animals with no prior foetal exposure.
Steven Youngentob from New York Upstate Medical University led researchers who probed social and behavioural effects of foetal ethanol exposure in adolescent and adult rats.
“The findings by Amber Eade in my lab reveal that foetal ethanol exposure influences adolescent re-exposure, in part, by promoting interactions with intoxicated peers,” Youngentob said.
Foetal ethanol experience is believed to train the developing sense of smell to find ethanol odour more attractive. The authors describe how, in both rats and humans, foetal exposure changes how the odour and flavour of ethanol are perceived, said a New York Upstate release.
“Such learning may be a fundamental feature of all mammalian species because it is important (from a survival standpoint) for the pre-weanling animal to accept and be attracted to the food sources consumed by the mother,” the researchers wrote.
In this study the authors found that rats unexposed to ethanol were significantly less likely to follow an intoxicated peer than those with gestational experience.
The study was published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Behavioural and Brain Functions.