Conclusion

Throughout the past studies, it had been evidenced that alcohol-exposed animals get impaired in learning trace fear conditioning, but show normal delay conditioning because alcohol can affect the development and functioning of the hippocampus.  In some cases, behavioral deficits seen in alcohol-exposed individuals (humans and rodents) can go away with development. Hyperactivity, for example, is seen in animals up through adolescence, but as adults the alcohol-exposed animals are no longer hyperactive. In the very lab I’m involved here at the College, studies had been carried out in the past to show that  impairment in trace conditioning (a hippocampus task)  is persistent in adolescent rats but  their  delay  conditioning(non-hippocampus task) is not affected. However, in the researches carried out, the animals that were tested were all adolescent (about 30 days old).  My summer project was designed to study delay and trace conditioning in fetal alcohol rats that were trained as adults. The purpose of my summer project was to determine if the deficit in trace conditioning persists into adulthood.

For this purpose, we trained a group of alcohol-exposed adult animals (about 70 days old) in both delay and trace conditioning and tested them for freezing behavior or immobility.  Based upon the data we collected from the experiment, and the t-test carried out for the data sample, we found that these animals had high score of freezing for trace conditioned tasks even though they were learning fine for delay tasks. This meant that the animals in trace group were learning less than the delay group animals which mean that their hippocampus that help these animals remember the light during the trace interval was still not functioning well in them even in their adulthood– and thus resulted in their high scores of freezing.  Now, similar experiments had been carried out in the lab in the past concerning the adolescent animals, but our purpose now was to see if this were something more permanent and likely to be persistent even to adulthood, and based upon this study, we came to learn that their early alcohol exposure was in fact impairing their learning ability even in adulthood and impairing their hippocampus permanently.