Sexually Dimorphic Effects of Prenatally Applied Fluoxetine (Prozac) on Behavior and Cognition in Rats
The safety of prenatally applying fluoxetine (Prozac), one of the antidepressant drugs currently most commonly prescribed to pregnant women, has been inadequately studied. The goal of this study was to determine gender differences in behavioral and cognitive effects in rats prenatally exposed to fluoxetine. Differences were investigated across the following four groups: females exposed to fluoxetine, males exposed to fluoxetine, females unexposed, males unexposed. Because males are commonly more acutely affected by prenatal drug exposure than females, it was hypothesized that fluoxetine would more noticeably affect behavior and cognition in prenatally exposed males than in females. Cognitive performance of rats that had been prenatally exposed to fluoxetine showed no significant differences from rats that had not been prenatally exposed to fluoxetine. Rats that had been prenatally exposed to fluoxetine were found, in three of seven behavioral tests, to respond differently to the stress of a predator’s scent than rats unexposed to fluoxetine. This may indicate heightened awareness to presence of danger in rats prenatally exposed to fluoxetine. In this research, male rats prenatally exposed to fluoxetine were not found to respond to the presence of a cat towel in the same way that female rats prenatally exposed to fluoxetine respond to the presence of a cat towel. This pilot study indicates that prenatally applied fluoxetine affects some behaviors in rats differentially according to gender.