Beneficial effects of enriched environment following status epilepticus in immature rats

S. Faverjon, D. C. Silveira, D. D. Fu, B. H. Cha, C. Akman, Y. Hu, G. L. Holmes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Background: There is increasing evidence that enriching the environment can improve cognitive and motor deficits following a variety of brain injuries. Whether environmental enrichment can improve cognitive impairment following status epilepticus (SE) is not known. Objective: To determine whether the environment in which animals are raised influences cognitive function in normal rats and rats subjected to SE. Methods: Rats (n = 100) underwent lithium-pilocarpine-induced SE at postnatal (P) day 20 and were then placed in either an enriched environment consisting of a large play area with toys, climbing objects, and music, or in standard vivarium cages for 30 days. Control rats (n = 32) were handled similarly to the SE rats but received saline injections instead of lithium-pilocarpine. Rats were then tested in the water maze, a measure of visual-spatial memory. A subset of the rats were killed during exposure to the enriched or nonenriched environment and the brains examined for dentate granule cell neurogenesis using bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) and phosphorylated cyclic AMP response element binding protein (pCREB) immunostaining, a brain transcription factor important in long-term memory. Results: Both control and SE rats exposed to the enriched environment performed significantly better than the nonenriched group in the water maze. There was a significant increase in neurogenesis and pCREB immunostaining in the dentate gyrus in both control and SE animals exposed to the enriched environment compared to the nonenriched groups. Environmental enrichment resulted in no change in SE-induced histologic damage. Conclusions: Exposure to an enriched environment in weanling rats significantly improves visual-spatial learning. Even following SE, an enriched environment enhances cognitive function. An increase in neurogenesis and activation of transcription factors may contribute to this enhanced visual-spatial memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1356-1364
Number of pages9
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 12 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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