Prenatal betamethasone exposure has sex specific effects in reversal learning and attention in juvenile baboons

Jesse S. Rodriguez, Nicole R. Zrcher, Kathryn E. Keenan, Thad Q. Bartlett, Peter W. Nathanielsz, Mark J. Nijland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Objective: We investigated effects of 3 weekly courses of fetal betamethasone (βM) on motivation and cognition in juvenile baboon offspring utilizing the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery. Study Design: Pregnant baboons (Papio species) received 2 injections of saline control or 175 μg/kg βM 24 hours apart at 0.6, 0.65, and 0.7 gestation. Offspring (saline control female, n = 7 and saline control male, n = 6; βM female [FβM], n = 7 and βM male [MβM], n = 5) were studied at 2.6-3.2 years with a progressive ratio test for motivation, simple discriminations and reversals for associative learning and rule change plasticity, and an intra/extradimensional set-shifting test for attention allocation. Results: βM exposure decreased motivation in both sexes. In intra/extradimensional testing, FβM made more errors in the simple discrimination reversal (mean difference of errors [FβM MβM] = 20.2 ± 9.9; P ≤ .05), compound discrimination (mean difference of errors = 36.3 ± 17.4; P ≤ .05), and compound reversal (mean difference of errors = 58 ± 23.6; P < .05) stages as compared to the MβM offspring. Conclusion: This central nervous system developmental programming adds growing concerns of long-term effects of repeated fetal synthetic glucocorticoid exposure. In summary, behavioral effects observed show sex-specific differences in resilience to multiple fetal βM exposures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545.e1-545.e10
JournalAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • developmental programming
  • neurodevelopment
  • neuropsychological testing
  • nonhuman primates
  • operant conditioning
  • synthetic glucocorticoids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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