Effects of environmental enrichment on cognitive function and hippocampal NGF in the non-handled rats

Behav Brain Res. 1999 Aug;103(1):63-70. doi: 10.1016/s0166-4328(99)00019-4.


In this study we examine whether exposure to differential housing after weaning would counteract the effects of postnatal handling (H) or nonhandling (NH) treatment by affecting learning and memory processes in young rats. In addition, we seek to determine if experience in enriched environment would alter hippocampal nerve growth factor (NGF) levels which is one of the factors known to be involved in the regulation of the survival and differentiation of developing basal forebrain neurones. Rats were either exposed to handling treatment, or left undisturbed starting day 1 after birth through day 21. After weaning on day 22, we exposed half of the H rats and half of the NH rats to environmental enrichment for 60 days. The other respective half of the rats was housed in isolated environmental condition (IC). Behavioural measures were taken in open field test, and spatial water maze test. Exposure to enriched environment following postnatal handling and nonhandling increased hippocampal NGF levels, and improved cognitive function in the both groups, with NH rats being more responsive to the effects of enrichment. Our results suggest that environmental enrichment has the potential to prevent or reduce the cognitive and neurochemical deficits in the adult animals associated with nonhandling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Handling, Psychological
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Nerve Growth Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Nerve Growth Factors