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Physiol Behav. 2001 Jul;73(4):649-58.

Environmental enrichment: effects on spatial memory and hippocampal CREB immunoreactivity.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, The University of Southern Mississippi, 39406, Hattiesburg, MS, USA.


Environmental enrichment has been shown to improve performance in tests of spatial memory, induce neurogenesis in the hippocampus, enhance survival of newly formed granule cells, and inhibit spontaneous apoptosis. Although neuroplasticity of the mammalian brain declines with age, recent evidence suggests that the adult brain exhibits significant plasticity in response to environmental stimulation. The present study was designed to evaluate the effect of environmental enrichment on spatial memory and on immunoreactivity to cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) from the hippocampus. C57/BL/6 mice were trained in a Morris water maze after exposure to an enriched environment, either from 35 to 94 days or from 100 to 159 days of age. Hippocampal tissue from representative animals was later analyzed by Western blot for CREB immunoreactivity. Results indicate that environmental enrichment (particularly during the earlier period) improved performance on the Morris water maze and tended to increase immunoreactivity to CREB in the hippocampus. Social interaction by itself did not result in significant differences in navigational performance. Results with regard to social interaction and CREB immunoreactivity were mixed. Results are discussed in terms of evaluating the construct of enrichment, the correlation of CREB transcription and behavior change, and the importance of the developmental period for enrichment.

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