Prenatal ethanol exposure alters core body temperature and corticosterone rhythms in adult male rats

Robert J. Handa, Damian G. Zuloaga, Robert F. McGivern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Ethanol's effects on the developing brain include alterations in morphology and biochemistry of the hypothalamus. To examine the potential functional consequences of ethanol's interference with hypothalamic differentiation, we studied the long-term effects of prenatal ethanol exposure on basal circadian rhythms of core body temperature (CBT) and heart rate (HR). We also examined the late afternoon surge in corticosterone (CORT). Core body temperature and HR rhythms were studied in separate groups of animals at 4, 8, and 20 months of age. The normal late afternoon rise in plasma CORT was examined in freely moving male rats at 6 months of age via an indwelling right atrial cannula. Results showed that the CBT circadian rhythm exhibited an earlier rise after the nadir of the rhythm in fetal alcohol-exposed (FAE) males at all ages compared to controls. At 8 months of age, the amplitude of the CBT circadian rhythm in FAE males was significantly reduced to the level observed in controls at 20 months. No significant effects of prenatal ethanol exposure were observed on basal HR rhythm at any age. The diurnal rise in CORT secretion was blunted and prolonged in 6-month-old FAE males compared to controls. Both control groups exhibited a robust surge in CORT secretion around the onset of the dark phase of the light cycle, which peaked at 7:30 p.m. Whereas FAE males exhibited a linear rise beginning in mid afternoon, which peaked at 9:30 p.m. These results indicate that exposure to ethanol during the period of hypothalamic development can alter the long-term regulation of circadian rhythms in specific physiological systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-575
Number of pages9
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Aging
  • Alcohol
  • Circadian
  • Core body temperature
  • Corticosterone
  • Heart rate
  • Male
  • Prenatal
  • Rats
  • Suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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