Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychological Science



First Reader/Committee Chair

Amodeo, Leslie


Escitalopram (EST), a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), is an antidepressant frequently used during pregnancy, yet there is limited knowledge of its long-term effects on maternal use. Past studies suggest that maternal exposure may adversely affect the fetus, which may be due to the hyperserotonergic environment caused by the nature of SSRIs during early development. Modifications of the serotonergic system in offspring during certain critical periods of development may result in long-term behavioral and cognitive changes in adulthood. Further, recent human studies have demonstrated that prenatal exposure to SSRIs in humans may increase susceptibility to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and developmental delays. This study examines behavioral and social changes in adolescent rats exposed to escitalopram during postnatal days (PD) 1-10. Eight nulliparous female Long-Evans rats (n = 4 per exposure group) were injected with 10 mg/kg or in 1ml/kg of saline for 10 days. Male and female adolescent offspring were subsequently tested on a battery of behavioral tasks consisting of open field conflict, saccharin taste neophobia, and social approach tasks. Significate decreases in female social interaction were found, as well a moderate increase in inhibitory, anxiety-like behavior in both males and females in the EST group. These findings suggest the occurrence of profound behavioral modification during critical developmental phases, particularly in the neonatal stage, following maternal exposure to escitalopram.