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Int J Dev Neurosci. 2018 Jun;67:19-32. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2018.03.003. Epub 2018 Mar 12.

Beneficial effects of environmental enrichment on behavior, stress reactivity and synaptophysin/BDNF expression in hippocampus following early life stress.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, School of Psychology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki 541 24, Greece.
2
Laboratory of Neuroimmunology, School of Medicine, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki 541 24, Greece.
3
Laboratory of Experimental Physiology, School of Medicine, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki 541 24, Greece.
4
Laboratory of Experimental Physiology, School of Medicine, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki 541 24, Greece. Electronic address: spandou@med.auth.gr.
5
Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, School of Psychology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki 541 24, Greece. Electronic address: dtata@psy.auth.gr.

Abstract

Exposure to environmental enrichment can beneficially influence the behavior and enhance synaptic plasticity. The aim of the present study was to investigate the mediated effects of environmental enrichment on postnatal stress-associated impact with regard to behavior, stress reactivity as well as synaptic plasticity changes in the dorsal hippocampus. Wistar rat pups were submitted to a 3 h maternal separation (MS) protocol during postnatal days 1-21, while another group was left undisturbed. On postnatal day 23, a subgroup from each rearing condition (maternal separation, no-maternal separation) was housed in enriched environmental conditions until postnatal day 65 (6 weeks duration). At approximately three months of age, adult rats underwent behavioral testing to evaluate anxiety (Elevated Plus Maze), locomotion (Open Field Test), spatial learning and memory (Morris Water Maze) as well as non-spatial recognition memory (Novel Object Recognition Test). After completion of behavioral testing, blood samples were taken for evaluation of stress-induced plasma corticosterone using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), while immunofluorescence was applied to evaluate hippocampal BDNF and synaptophysin expression in dorsal hippocampus. We found that environmental enrichment protected against the effects of maternal separation as indicated by the lower anxiety levels and the reversal of spatial memory deficits compared to animals housed in standard conditions. These changes were associated with increased BDNF and synaptophysin expression in the hippocampus. Regarding the neuroendocrine response to stress, while exposure to an acute stressor potentiated corticosterone increases in maternally-separated rats, environmental enrichment of these rats prevented this effect. The current study aimed at investigating the compensatory role of enriched environment against the negative outcomes of adverse experiences early in life concurrently on emotional and cognitive behaviors, HPA function and neuroplasticity markers.

KEYWORDS:

Corticosterone; Early stress; Enriched environment; Recognition memory; Spatial memory; Visuospatial learning

PMID:
29545098
DOI:
10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2018.03.003
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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