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J Neurobiol. 1999 Jun 15;39(4):569-78.

Enriched environment increases neurogenesis in the adult rat dentate gyrus and improves spatial memory.

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Institute of Clinical Neuroscience, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg University, Sweden.


The fetal and even the young brain possesses a considerable degree of plasticity. The plasticity and rate of neurogenesis in the adult brain is much less pronounced. The present study was conducted to investigate whether housing conditions affect neurogenesis, learning, and memory in adult rats. Three-month-old rats housed either in isolation or in an enriched environment were injected intraperitoneally with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) to detect proliferation among progenitor cells and to follow their fate in the dentate gyrus. The rats were sacrificed either 1 day or 4 weeks after BrdU injections. This experimental paradigm allows for discrimination between proliferative effects and survival effects on the newborn progenitors elicited by different housing conditions. The number of newborn cells in the dentate gyrus was not altered 1 day after BrdU injections. In contrast, the number of surviving progenitors 1 month after BrdU injections was markedly increased in animals housed in an enriched environment. The relative ratio of neurogenesis and gliogenesis was not affected by environmental conditions, as estimated by double-labeling immunofluorescence staining with antibodies against BrdU and either the neuronal marker calbindin D28k or the glial marker GFAp, resulting in a net increase in neurogenesis in animals housed in an enriched environment. Furthermore, we show that adult rats housed in an enriched environment show improved performance in a spatial learning test. The results suggest that environmental cues can enhance neurogenesis in the adult hippocampal region, which is associated with improved spatial memory.

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