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Another project in the lab is examining the effects of prenatal and adult exposure to cocaine on development and migration of cells from the subventricular zone. Prenatal exposure to drugs of abuse causes numerous developmental disorders in children, including deficits in neuronal and glial cell migration, motor performance, and environmental awareness. In adults, exposure to these drugs causes memory defects and disorders of affect. Similar behavioral changes have been observed in animal models of drug abuse. Although the behavioral symptoms of prenatal and adult drug exposure have been described, few studies have examined the developmental mechanisms that underlie these behaviors. Drugs of abuse alter the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, and changes in neurotransmitter levels can alter cell proliferation, cell migration, formation of neural connections, and cell survival. In the prenatal CNS, cells are generated in ventricular zones and migrate long distances to their final destinations. In the adult CNS, repopulation of neurons is severely limited; however, a few neurons are generated in the subventricular zone of the forebrain and either migrate through the rostral migratory stream to repopulate the olfactory bulb or migrate laterally to repopulate the hippocampus. We are using specific cell markers and computer-aided 3-dimensional reconstruction to trace the developmental migration of these cells. This work will allow us to determine the effects of prenatal or adult exposure to drugs of abuse on the development of the CNS.
Last update: April 2003