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  • Author: Michal Dubovický x
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Neurobehavioral manifestations of developmental impairment of the brain

Individual characteristics of human nature (e.g. introversion, extroversion, mood, activity, adaptability, aggressiveness, social ability, anxiety) do not need to be primarily innate. They can be determined by the action of various influences and their interactions on functional development of the brain. There is ample epidemiological and experimental evidence that chemical and/or physical factors acting during sensitive time windows of the brain development can cause mental, behavioral, emotional and/or cognitive disorders. Environmental pollutants, addictive substances, drugs, malnutrition, excessive stress and/or hypoxia-ischemia were reported to induce functional maldevelopment of the brain with consequent neurobehavioral disorders. The article provides review on most significant neurobehavioral manifestations of developmental impairment of the brain during prenatal, perinatal and early postnatal period. The most known adverse factors causing developmental neurobehavioral dysfunctions in humans as well as in experimental animals are discussed.





About 3% of pregnant women are treated with antidepressant drugs during gestation. After delivery the number of treated women increases to 5 to 7%. Most prescribed antidepressants in pregnancy are selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and/or serotonin and noradrenaline re-uptake inhibitors, such as fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, citalopram and venlafaxine (VENF). Despite the fact that VENF has been assigned to pregnancy category C by the FDA, experimental studies with this drug are rare. The aim of this pilot study was to investigate the effect of prenatal administration of VENF on early postnatal development of rat offspring and selected biochemical variables at weaning of pups. Pregnant female Wistar rats were treated with VENF from day 15 to 20 of gestation at the doses of 7.5, 37.5 and 70 mg/kg. Females were allowed to spontaneously deliver their pups. After delivery the pups were inspected for viability, gross malformation and they were weighed on day 0, 4 and 21 post partum. On day 21 post partum, the pups were killed, brains were removed from the skulls and blood samples were collected for biochemical assay (proteins, glucose-GOD, glucose-HEX, lactate dehydrogenase, aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase and total antioxidant status). The study showed that prenatal VENF administration resulted in a mild maternal intoxication manifested by decreased body weight gain of pregnant females. There was no effect of the drug tested on the body and brain weights of offspring. No obvious morphological alterations were observed in the delivered pups. Similarly, there were no changes in the selected biochemical variables determined.


At present, affective disorders are among the most commonly diagnosed mental diseases. In pregnancy, they can occur as pre-delivery depression, recurrent depressive disorder or postnatal depression. The estimated prevalence of depressive disorders in pregnancy is approximately 9–16%, with some statistics reporting up to 20%. Approximately 2–3% of pregnant women take antidepressants during pregnancy, and the number of mothers treated increases by birth to 5–7%. Treatment of depression during pregnancy and breastfeeding is a controversial issue, as antidepressants can negatively affect the developing fetus. According to epidemiological studies, the effects of treated depression in pregnancy are related to premature birth, decreased body weight of the child, intrauterine growth retardation, neonatal adaptive syndrome, and persistent pulmonary hypertension. However, untreated depression can adversely affect maternal health and increase the risk of preeclampsia and eclampsia, as well as of subsequent postnatal depression, which can lead to disruption of the mother-child relationship. Based on the above mentioned facts, the basic question arises as to whether or not to treat depression during pregnancy and lactation.

Safety assessment of the pyridoindole derivative SMe1EC2: developmental neurotoxicity study in rats

The present study deals with effect of prenatal and neonatal administration of the synthetic pyridoindole derivative SMe1EC2 (2-ethoxycarbonyl-8-methoxy-2,3,4,4a, 5,9b-hexahydro-1H-pyrido-[4,3b] indolinium chloride) on postnatal and neurobehavioral development of the rat offspring. The substance tested was administered to pregnant rats orally in the doses 5, 50 and 250 mg/kg from day 15 of gestation to day 10 post partum (PP). From the day 4 PP, the postnatal development and neurobehavioral characteritics of offspring were evaluated. The following variables were observed: body weight, pinna detachment, incisor eruption, ear opening, eye opening, testes descent and vaginal opening, righting reflex, negative geotaxia, startle reflex, dynamic air righting and exploratory behavior in a new environment. No maternal death, abortion or dead fetuses occurred either in the control or SMe1EC2 groups. Dynamic righting reflex was delayed one day in the groups of animals treated via their mothers with 5 and 50 mg/kg SMe1EC2. The delay in the development of this reflex was only transient. On day 20 PP, all pups tested had a positive score of the reflex. Administration of SMe1EC2 did not reveal any significant changes in other variables of somatic growth and maturation, reflex and neuromotor development and exploratory behavior, either of young or adult animals of both genders, assessed by analysis of variance.

Important issues in developmental toxicity testing

Studies of individual development and its possible deterioration have been the concern since the 19th century, when Etienne Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire (1772-1844) with his pioneer experiments opened the door for future experimental teratologists. Later scientists, focused on environmental agents which can alter embryonic and fetal development, such hyperthermia, malnutrition, pharmaceuticals, microbial toxins etc. Although the history of teratology involves many notable scientists, it has gained prominence after the big thalidomide tragedy in 1961. Principles of teratology were proposed later by James Wilson in his monograph Environment and Birth Defects (Wilson, 1973).

Developmental origin of chronic diseases: toxicological implication

Human epidemiological and experimental animal studies show that suboptimal environments in fetal and neonatal life exerts a profound influence on physiological function and risk of disease in adult life. The molecular, cellular, metabolic, endocrine and physiological adaptations to intrauterine nutritional conditions result in permanent alterations of cellular proliferation and differentiation of tissues and organ systems, which in turn can manifest by pathological consequences or increased vulnerability to chronic diseases in adulthood. Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) due to intrauterine development derangements is considered the important factor in development of such diseases as essential hypertension, diabetes mellitus, ischemic diseases of the heart, osteoporosis, respiratory, neuropsychiatric and immune system diseases.

An early life exposures to dietary and environmental exposures can have a important effect on epigenetic code, resulting in diseases developed later in life. The concept of the "developmental programming" and Developmental Origins of Adult Diseases (DOHaD) has become well accepted because of the compelling animal studies that have precisely defined the outcomes of specific exposures. The environmental pollullutants and other chemical toxicants may influence crucial cellular functions during critical periods of fetal development and permanently alter the structure or function of specific organ systems. Developmental epigenetics is believed to establish "adaptive" phenotypes to meet the demands of the later-life environment. Resulting phenotypes that match predicted later-life demands will promote health, while a high degree of mismatch will impede adaptability to later-life challenges and elevate disease risk. The rapid introduction of synthetic chemicals, environmental pollutants and medical interventions, may result in conflict with the programmed adaptive changes made during early development, and explain the alarming increases in some diseases.

Early assessment of the severity of asphyxia in term newborns using parameters of blood count

Acute perinatal asphyxia is a major cause of death and neurological injury in newborn infants. Severe asphyxia can occur in infants around the time of birth for several reasons. The aim of our study was to find the most sensitive, easily obtainable and fast assessable parameter of the presence and quantification of asphyxia.

In our study 39 term newborns (15 healthy term newborns and 24 asphyxial term newborns), from vaginal deliveries admitted within 24 hours of life were monitored and parameters of blood count from venous blood were assessed. Laboratory findings of blood count parameters revealed significant differences between term asphyxial and healthy newborns in erythrocyte count and hemoglobin and hematocrit values.

Hematological changes observed early after delivery can determine the duration of hypoxemia (acute vs. chronic) and asphyxia of short duration may be accompanied without occurrence of polyglobulia.

Anxiolytic activity of pyridoindole derivatives SMe1EC2 and SMe1M2: behavioral analysis using rat model

Anxiety and mood disorders have become very significant affections in the last decades. According to WHO at least one mental disease occurred per year in 27% of EU inhabitants (more than 82 mil. people). It is estimated that by 2020, depression will be the main cause of morbidity in the developed countries. These circumstances call for research for new prospective drugs with anxiolytic and antidepressive properties exhibiting no toxicity and withdrawal effect and possessing beneficial properties, like antioxidant and/or neuroprotective effects. The aim of this study was to obtain information about psychopharmacological properties of pyridoindole derivatives SMe1EC2 and SMe1M2, using non-invasive behavioral methods in rats.

The battery of ethological tests (open field, elevated plus-maze, light/dark box exploration, forced swim test) was used to obtain information about anxiolytic and antidepressant activity of the pyridoindole derivatives. The substances were administered intraperitoneally 30 minutes before the tests at doses of 1, 10 and 25 mg/kg.

In the behavioral tests, SMe1EC2 was found to exert anxiolytic activity in elevated plus maze with no affection of locomotor activity. The highest dose of SMe1M2 increased the time spent in the lit part of the Light/Dark box, however this result was influenced by inhibition of motor activity of the rats. Similar findings were observed also in elevated plus-maze, although these results were not statistically significant.

In conclusion, from the results of our study it is evident that both pyridoindoles acted on the CNS. In the highest dose, SMe1M2 was found to possess rather sedative than anxiolytic or antidepressant activity.