Cadmium alters behaviour and the biosynthetic capacity for catecholamines and serotonin in neonatal rat brain

Document Type



Brain and Mind Institute


Daily exposure to cadmium (10 μg/100g) for 30 days since birth significantly increased spontaneous locomotor activity as well as striatal tyrosine hydroxylase and mid-brain tryptophan hydroxylase. The endogenous levels of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin failed to change in various brain regions of cadmium-treated rats. In contrast, the concentration of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid tended to rise but was significantly different from controls only in the mid-brain region. The data suggest that cadmium treatment in early life increased the synthesis and physiological utilization of these putative transmitters which in turn probably altered locomotor performance.

Increasing the dose of cadmium to 100 μg/100 g for 30 days decreased body weight (by 19%) and produced slight increases in the turnover of brain amines. However, the rise was not dose-dependent. Furthermore, the locomotor activity remained the same as that seen in rats treated with the low dose of cadmium. The levels of dopamine in hypothalamus and that of norepinephrine in several brain regions examined were enhanced. This could in part, be attributed to decreased (12%) activity of catechol-O-methyl transferase enzyme. Administration of the high dose of cadmium produced significant increases in 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid level. Data suggest that cadmium acts at some step in the sequence of intracellular events that leads to increased synthesis and presumably turnover of brain catecholamines and serotonin. Since high dosage of this heavy metal failed to produce a dose-dependent change in locomotor activity, it is not possible to impute any casual role for these amines in the production of hyperactivity seen in cadmium-treated rats.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Journal of Neurochemistry