Prenatal exposure to valproic acid (VPA), an established antiepileptic drug, has been reported to impair postnatal cognitive function in children born to VPA-treated epileptic mothers. However, how these defects arise and how they can be overcome remain unknown. Using mice, we found that comparable postnatal cognitive functional impairment is very likely correlated to the untimely enhancement of embryonic neurogenesis, which led to depletion of the neural precursor cell pool and consequently a decreased level of adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus. Moreover, hippocampal neurons in the offspring of VPA-treated mice showed abnormal morphology and activity. Surprisingly, these impairments could be ameliorated by voluntary running. Our study suggests that although prenatal exposure to antiepileptic drugs such as VPA may have detrimental effects that persist until adulthood, these effects may be offset by a simple physical activity such as running.
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