Changes in brain nerve growth factor levels and nerve growth factor receptors in rats exposed to environmental enrichment for one year

Neuroscience. 1999;94(1):279-86. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(99)00316-4.


This study examined the effects of long-term differential rearing on levels of brain nerve growth factor, its receptors, and their relationships to cognitive function. Adult rats (two months old) were placed into either enriched or standard housing conditions where they remained for 12 months. Animals from the enriched condition group had significantly higher levels of nerve growth factor in hippocampus, visual and entorhinal cortices compared with animals housed in isolated condition. Immunohistochemical analysis of brain tissue from the medial septal area revealed higher staining intensity and fibre density with both the low-affinity and the high-affinity nerve growth factor receptors. Enriched rats performed better than isolated rats in acquisition of spatial learning and had lower locomotion scores in the open field. These results provide further evidence that experimental stimulation results in increased production of trophic factors and structural reorganization in specific brain regions known to be involved in cognitive function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Antibodies
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Entorhinal Cortex / chemistry
  • Entorhinal Cortex / metabolism
  • Environment*
  • Grooming / physiology
  • Hippocampus / chemistry
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Nerve Growth Factors / analysis
  • Nerve Growth Factors / immunology
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor / analysis
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor / immunology
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Receptor, trkA / analysis
  • Receptor, trkA / immunology
  • Receptor, trkA / metabolism*
  • Social Behavior
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / chemistry
  • Visual Cortex / metabolism


  • Antibodies
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptor, trkA
  • Corticosterone