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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2002 Aug;73(1):225-31.

Enduring effects of environmental enrichment on novelty seeking, saccharin and ethanol intake in two rat lines (RHA/Verh and RLA/Verh) differing in incentive-seeking behavior.

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Medical Psychology Unit, Department of Psychiatry and Forensic Medicine, School of Medicine, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Bellaterra 08193, Barcelona, Spain.


The Roman high- and low-avoidance (RHA/Verh and RLA/Verh) rat lines represent, respectively, low emotional/anxious and high novelty seeker vs. high emotional/anxious and low novelty seeker profiles. In the present study, RLA/Verh and RHA/Verh rats, either reared in pairs from weaning (untreated) or reared in groups of 8-10 in an enriched environment until the age of 7 months, were tested for exploratory and novelty-seeking behavior in the hole board (including novel objects under the holes), as well as for their preference for saccharin-water and ethanol-water in a two-bottle free-choice paradigm. Testing started when rats were 20 months old in order to study the long-lasting effects of differential rearing. RHA/Verh rats explored more and showed greater preference for (and intake of) saccharin as well as for ethanol than RLA/Verh rats, thus confirming their validity as a rat model for sensation/reward seeking. Environmental enrichment (EE) increased head-dipping behavior (i.e., novelty seeking) in both rat lines, without affecting locomotor activity. EE treatment increased the preference for, and volume intake of, saccharin (especially at the higher concentrations tested) in the relatively low saccharin-preferring RLA/Verh rats, and also enhanced ethanol consumption in both rat lines. Thus, the results demonstrate consistent and enduring effects of EE on incentive-seeking behavior and further the analysis of how individual differential predispositions for the need of novelty and contact with (or consumption of) rewarding substances arise through either biological (genetic) or early environmental factors, or both.

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