Enduring effects of environmental enrichment from weaning to adulthood on pituitary-adrenal function, pre-pulse inhibition and learning in male and female rats

Psychoneuroendocrinology
Yolanda PeñaRosa M Escorihuela

Abstract

Environmental enrichment (EE) increases stimulation and provides richer sensory, cognitive and motor opportunities through the interaction with the social and physical environment. EE produces a wide range of neuroanatomical, neurochemical and behavioural effects in several animal species. However, the effects of EE have mainly been studied shortly after the treatment, so its long-lasting effects remain to be elucidated. Thus, we studied in male and female Sprague-Dawley rats the enduring effects of EE on tasks that measured emotional reactivity, social exploration and memory, sensorimotor gating and learning. After weaning, rats reared in EE were housed in single-sex groups of 12-14 in enriched cages during 12 weeks, whereas control rats were housed in single-sex groups of 2-3 animals in standard cages. Then, all rats were housed in pairs and successively exposed to different tests between 4 and 60 weeks post-EE. The results indicated that animals of both sexes reared in EE gained less weight during the enrichment period; differences disappeared in females during the post-EE period, but were maintained intact in males. Rats reared in EE showed an altered daily pattern of corticosterone and a lower hormone response to a novel e...Continue Reading

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