When isolated from their dams and littermates, rat pups emit ultrasonic vocalizations to elicit attention and retrieval from their dams. This study examined the effects of perinatal alcohol exposure on ultrasonic vocalizations and maternal-infant interactions. Alcohol was administered throughout gestation to the dams and during the early postnatal period to the pups. Control groups consisted of a nontreated control and an intubated, pair-fed control. Ultrasonic vocalizations were measured on postnatal day (PD) 5 under varying conditions of isolation. Maternal behaviors were examined on PD2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. Maternal behaviors were not significantly affected by prior alcohol administration to either the dams or the pups. However, ethanol-exposed rat pups vocalized more on PD5 than controls regardless of condition. The heightened vocalization response of the ethanol-exposed pups might be an underlying factor in the persistent effects of perinatal ethanol exposure on social behavior.
Copyright 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 41: 341-351, 2002. Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI 10.1002/dev.10077