Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chairperson

Kristen R. Breit, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan E. Gans, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Aaron Rundus, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eric Sweet, Ph.D.


Thirty percent of people who report consumption of alcohol while pregnant simultaneously report consuming nicotine. Prenatal co-exposure to alcohol and nicotine has increased with the popularity of electronic cigarettes due to their presumed safety, yet e-cigarette use may have a greater impact on fetal development than traditional cigarettes. Prenatal exposure to alcohol or nicotine is associated with increased anxiety-related behaviors and impaired motor coordination later in life, yet it is unknown whether prenatal co-exposure to alcohol and nicotine exacerbates these effects, particularly via e-cigarettes. This project examined the effects of co-exposure to alcohol and nicotine via e-cigarettes during early development on anxiety- and motor-related behaviors later in life using a mouse model. Maternal mice and their neonates were exposed to alcohol, nicotine, the combination, or the e-cigarette vehicle from postnatal days (PD) 4-9, mimicking the human 3rd trimester brain growth spurt. Offspring were examined for anxiety- and motor-related behaviors in adolescence. Developmental exposure to either alcohol or nicotine via e-cigarettes increased anxiety-related behaviors on the elevated plus maze. Developmental alcohol exposure also impaired habituation to the open field, while only developmental co-exposure to alcohol and nicotine via e-cigarettes significantly decreased locomotor activity. Lastly, developmental exposure to nicotine via e-cigarettes alone altered spatial memory and motor coordination in a sex-dependent manner, in which males and females showed advanced trajectories for spatial memory and motor learning, respectively. Overall, these data suggest that alcohol and e-cigarettes may have domain- and sex-specific effects on behavior, and co-exposure to these drugs have unique interactive effects.