Long-lasting Behavioral and Neuroanatomical Effects of Postnatal Valproic Acid Treatment

Sara A. Norton, Janace J. Gifford, Anthony P. Pawlak, Anna Derbaly, Sara L. Sherman, Huaye Zhang, George C. Wagner, Alexander W. Kusnecov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Valproic acid (VPA) administered to mice during the early postnatal period causes social, cognitive, and motor deficits similar to those observed in humans with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, previous studies on the effects of early exposure to VPA have largely focused on behavioral deficits occurring before or during the juvenile period of life. Given that ASD is a life-long condition, the present study ought to extend our understanding of the behavioral profile following early postnatal VPA into adulthood. Male mice treated with VPA on postnatal day 14 (P14) displayed increased aggression, decreased avoidance of the open arms in the elevated plus maze, and impaired reversal learning in the Y maze. This may indicate a disinhibited or impulsive phenotype in male, but not female, mice treated with VPA during the second week of postnatal life. Decreased dendritic spine density and dendritic spine morphological abnormalities in the mPFC of VPA-treated mice may be indicative of PFC hypofunction, consistent with the observed behavioral differences. Since these types of long-lasting deficits are not exclusively found in ASD, early life exposure to VPA may reflect dysfunction of a neurobiological domain common to several developmental disorders, including ASD, ADHD, and conduct disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-21
Number of pages14
StatePublished - May 10 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)


  • ADHD
  • Aggression
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Disinhibition
  • Impulsivity
  • Valproic acid


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