Long-term environmental enrichment leads to regional increases in neurotrophin levels in rat brain

Exp Neurol. 2000 Jul;164(1):45-52. doi: 10.1006/exnr.2000.7415.


A number of studies have demonstrated that both morphological and biochemical indices in the brain undergo alterations in response to environmental influences. In previous work we have shown that rats raised in an enriched environmental condition (EC) perform better on a spatial memory task than rats raised in isolated conditions (IC). We have also found that EC rats have a higher density of immunoreactivity than IC rats for both low and high affinity nerve growth factor (NGF) receptors in the basal forebrain. In order to determine if these alterations were coupled with altered levels of neurotrophins in other brain regions as well, we measured neurotrophin levels in rats that were raised in EC or IC conditions. Rats were placed in the different environments at 2 months of age and 12 months later brain regions were dissected and analyzed for NGF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) levels using Promega ELISA kits. We found that NGF and BDNF levels were increased in the cerebral cortex, hippocampal formation, basal forebrain, and hindbrain in EC animals compared to age-matched IC animals. NT-3 was found to be increased in the basal forebrain and cerebral cortex of EC animals as well. These findings demonstrate significant alterations in NGF, BDNF, and NT-3 protein levels in several brain regions as a result of an enriched versus an isolated environment and thus provide a possible biochemical basis for behavioral and morphological alterations that have been found to occur with a shifting environmental stimulus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Environment Design
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Housing, Animal
  • Male
  • Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism*
  • Neurotrophin 3 / metabolism
  • Play and Playthings
  • Prosencephalon / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rhombencephalon / metabolism
  • Social Environment*
  • Social Facilitation*
  • Social Isolation


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Neurotrophin 3
  • Nerve Growth Factor