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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e36092. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036092. Epub 2012 May 2.

Short-term enrichment makes male rats more attractive, more defensive and alters hypothalamic neurons.

Author information

1
School of Biological Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore. rupshi@gmail.com

Abstract

Innate behaviors are shaped by contingencies built during evolutionary history. On the other hand, environmental stimuli play a significant role in shaping behavior. In particular, a short period of environmental enrichment can enhance cognitive behavior, modify effects of stress on learned behaviors and induce brain plasticity. It is unclear if modulation by environment can extend to innate behaviors which are preserved by intense selection pressure. In the present report we investigate this issue by studying effects of relatively short (14-days) environmental enrichment on two prominent innate behaviors in rats, avoidance of predator odors and ability of males to attract mates. We show that enrichment has strong effects on both the innate behaviors: a) enriched males were more avoidant of a predator odor than non-enriched controls, and had a greater rise in corticosterone levels in response to the odor; and b) had higher testosterone levels and were more attractive to females. Additionally, we demonstrate decrease in dendritic length of neurons of ventrolateral nucleus of hypothalamus, important for reproductive mate-choice and increase in the same in dorsomedial nucleus, important for defensive behavior. Thus, behavioral and hormonal observations provide evidence that a short period of environmental manipulation can alter innate behaviors, providing a good example of gene-environment interaction.

PMID:
22567125
PMCID:
PMC3342313
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0036092
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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