Key Point: Ultrasound Affects Learning and Memory in Young Rats

Prenatal Exposure to Ultrasound Affects Learning and Memory in Young Rats

Ping Li, Pei-jun Wang, Wei Zhang – Department of Ultrasound, Tongji Hospital, Medical School of Tongji University, Putuo District, Shanghai, China



The Morris water maze was used to assess learning and memory function in pups at 2 mo of age. Noticeable deficits in behavior occurred in the group exposed to ultrasound for 20 min. Using real-time polymerase chain reaction and Western blot, we also determined that both the mRNA and protein expression levels of hippocampal N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor units 1 (NR1) and 2B (NR2B) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) were significantly lower in pups exposed to ultrasound for 20 min than in controls. Furthermore, the morphology of the synapses in the hippocampus was partially damaged.

Compared with the control group, the 4-min group had better spatial learning and memory abilities, as well as higher mRNA and protein levels of NR1, NR2B and BDNF. Our study suggests that high-intensity ultrasound irradiation can decrease learning and memory abilities by reducing the expression of NR1, NR2B and BDNF in the hippocampal regions and damaging the structure of synapses. In contrast, low-intensity ultrasound irradiation can enhance the learning and memory abilities of the offspring rats by increasing the expression of NR1, NR2B and BDNF receptor in the hippocampal regions.