Superfund Research Program
Environmental Contaminants and the Neuroecology of Reproductive Behavior
Project Leader: Lynwood G. Clemens
Grant Number: P42ES004911
Funding Period: 2000 - 2013
Project Summary (2000-2006)
This project is investigating the effects of PCB congeners 2,4,2',4 tetrachlorobiphenyl and 3,4,3',4' tetrachlorobiphenyl (TCBs) on the maternal and sexual behaviors of laboratory rats. Preliminary observations have indicated that treatment of pregnant rats with TCBs produces behavioral effects that interfere with the display of normal maternal behavior. Researchers are investigating how the hormones of pregnancy and lactation modulate the toxic effects of TCBs on the dopaminergic pathway from the substantia nigra to the basal ganglia. Additionally, the investigators are testing whether exposure to TCBs prevents the development of normal sexual behavior by affecting the development of dopaminergic systems. These dopaminergic pathways are responsible for the motivational and motoric aspects of female sexual behavior. The project makes use of sensitive behavioral, anatomical and neurochemical approaches and the results will greatly expand understanding of the effects of environmental contaminants on brain function and behavior. This work also begins to differentiate between developmental effects of TCBs that are due to direct actions on the developing nervous system from those that are the indirect result of changes in the quality of maternal care.