It was previously shown that polyamine treatment could induce precocious development of several somatic and neurobehavioral functions in newborn ruts. This study investigates the effects of daily injections of spermidine (SPMD) 50 mu l/10 g s.c. on neurobehavioral development of newborn rats experiencing undernutrition. Neurobehavioral development was assessed by measurements of gripping and righting reflexes. SPMD treated intrauterine growth retarded (IUGR) rats reached righting reflex control values at 30 days postnatal (1.87+/-0.78 s vs 1.75+/-0.66 s). Beginning from 7 days postnatal, gripping reflex values of SPMD treated IUGR rats declined. reaching that of controls at 30 days postnatal (1.77 +/- 91 degrees vs 1.82 +/- 65 degrees). These results suggest the utility of exogenous SPMD in rats experiencing undernutrition, thus indicating a clinical relevance. (C) 1999 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.