Prenatal cocaine: Effect on hypoxic ventilatory responsiveness in neonatal rats

Jack W. Lipton, Teresa L. Davidson, Paul M. Carvey, Debra E. Weese-Mayer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The effects of prenatal (embryonic days 7-21) cocaine (30 mg/kg b.i.d., s.c.) exposure on postnatal respiratory and behavioral responsiveness to acute hypoxia were investigated in 5-day-old (P5) rat pups. Control and cocaine-exposed pups were subjected to 20 min of 0.21 FI(O2) followed by 20 min of 0.08 FI(O2). Although all pups demonstrated the characteristic biphasic response to hypoxia, cocaine-exposed pups exhibited a blunted, initial response in minute ventilation (p < 0.05) and inspiratory drive (p < 0.05) as compared with control pups who showed increases in these measures (p < 0.01 and p < 0.05, respectively). The consequence of this apparent blunted ventilatory response was reflected in blood gas data gathered after 20 min of 0.08 FI(O2): P(CO2) (p < 0.05) and base-excess (p < 0.05) were increased and HCO3- (p < 0.05) and S(O2) (p < 0.001) were decreased relative to control pups. Cocaine-exposed pups also exhibited behavioral evidence of decreased struggling (p < 0.001) in response to the hypoxic challenge. These data in the rat confirm our previous findings of altered ventilatory responsiveness to inspired hypoxia in the rabbit and extend our observations of a decreased ability to successfully compensate and behaviorally arouse following prenatal cocaine-exposure, thus underscoring the potential vulnerability of infants so exposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-169
Number of pages9
JournalRespiration Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1 1996


  • Development, hypoxic response
  • Drugs, cocaine
  • Hypoxia, postnatal response on prenatal cocaine
  • Mammals, rat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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