Recreational drug use among pregnant women is a source of concern due to potential harmful effects of drug exposure on prenatal and infant development. The simultaneous abuse of ecstasy [3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)] and alcohol is prevalent among young adults, including young expectant mothers. Here, we used a rat model to study the potential risks associated with exposure to alcohol and MDMA during pregnancy. Pregnant rats received alcohol, MDMA, or both alcohol and MDMA by gavage at E13 through E15 twice daily. Female offspring treated prenatally with the combination of alcohol and MDMA, but not those exposed to either drug separately, showed at 3 months of age decreased exploratory activity and impaired working memory function. Prenatal treatment with the combination of alcohol and MDMA decreased proliferation of neuronal precursors in the adult dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, as measured by 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine labelling, and adult neurogenesis, assessed by quantifying doublecortin expression. These results provide the first evidence that the simultaneous abuse of alcohol and ecstasy during pregnancy, even for short periods of time, may cause significant abnormalities in neurocognitive development.

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