Effects of nicotine exposure during prenatal or perinatal period on cell numbers in adult rat hippocampus and cerebellum: a stereology study. Academic Article uri icon


  • Smoking during pregnancy poses a potential risk to unborn children. The present study examined the long-term effects of early nicotine exposure on the number of pyramidal and granule cells in the hippocampus, and Purkinje cells in the cerebellar vermis. The loss of neurons is the most severe form of brain injury with significant functional implications. In this study, rats were exposed to nicotine during either the prenatal (PRE) period or both the prenatal and early postnatal (PERI) period. It was hypothesized that nicotine treatment would result in long-term decreases in neuronal numbers, and that PERI treatment would be more detrimental to these cell populations than the PRE treatment. The results showed that neither PRE nor PERI nicotine exposure reduces the numbers of pyramidal, granule or Purkinje cells. Neither the regions where these cells reside, nor the cell densities were affected by nicotine. Although no significant cell loss was observed, the current nicotine exposure regimens may lead to alterations in cellular functions or cytoarchitectures. The present results in conjunction with previous reports showing significant cell loss from nicotine exposure during the brain growth spurt suggest that "patch-like" nicotine exposure during prenatal period may alter the sensitivity or the responsiveness of the developing brain to the injurious effects of nicotine during the most vulnerable stage of brain development - the brain growth spurt. Furthermore, the current stereology cell counting results are not in agreement with some reports in the literature, and this discrepancy may simply be a function of different cell counting techniques used.

published proceedings

  • Life Sci

author list (cited authors)

  • Chen, W., King, K. A., Lee, R. E., Sedtal, C. S., & Smith, A. M.

citation count

  • 17

complete list of authors

  • Chen, Wei-Jung A||King, Karen A||Lee, Ruby E||Sedtal, Christopher S||Smith, Andrew M

publication date

  • November 2006