Environmental Enrichment as a Treatment for Early Life Inflammation

Environmental enrichment rescues the effects of early life inflammation on markers of synaptic transmission and plasticity.



Environmental enrichment (EE) has been successful at rescuing the brain from a variety of early-life psychogenic stressors.

However, its ability to reverse the behavioral and neural alterations induced by a prenatal maternal infection model of schizophrenia is less clear. Moreover, the specific interactions between the components (i.e. social enhancement, novelty, physical activity) of EE that lead to its success as a supportive intervention have not been adequately identified.

In the current study, standard housed female Sprague-Dawley rats were administered either the inflammatory endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 100μg/kg) or pyrogen-free saline (equivolume) on gestational day 15.

On postnatal day 50, offspring were randomized into one of three conditions: EE (group housed in a large multi-level cage with novel toys, tubes and ramps), Colony Nesting (CN; socially-housed in a larger style cage), or Standard Care (SC; pair-housed in standard cages).

Six weeks later we scored social engagement and performance in the object-in-place task. Afterwards hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (n=7-9) were collected and evaluated for excitatory amino acid transporter (EAAT) 1-3, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and neurotrophic tyrosine kinase, receptor type 2 (TrkB) gene expression (normalized to GAPDH) using qPCR methods.

Overall, we show that gestational inflammation downregulates genes critical to synaptic transmission and plasticity, which may underlie the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. Additionally, we observed disruptions in both social engagement and spatial discrimination. Importantly, behavioral and neurophysiological effects were rescued in an experience dependent manner. Given the evidence that schizophrenia and autism may be associated with infection during pregnancy, these data have compelling implications for the prevention and reversibility of the consequences that follow immune activation in early in life.

Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Further Readings of Interest



Environmental Enrichment



This entry was posted in Autism, Environment, Gut, IBD, Immune System, Inflammation, Neurology, Physiology, Schizophrenia, Treatment, Virus. Bookmark the permalink.

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