Enriched environment improves motor function in intact and unilateral dopamine-depleted rats

Neuroscience. 2006 Jul 21;140(4):1127-38. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2006.03.027. Epub 2006 May 6.


Previous studies have suggested that experience and environmental conditions can affect the progression and severity of symptoms in Parkinson's disease. Furthermore, earlier reports have indicated that enriched environment promotes the survival of dopaminergic grafts in a rat model of Parkinson's disease. Here we investigated whether environmental enrichment affects normal motor function and the severity of dopamine depletion in a rat model of Parkinson's disease. Adult female Long-Evans rats were pre-trained and tested daily in a skilled reaching task. One group of rats was placed in an enriched environment while one group was housed under standard conditions. During this time period, reaching success of animals exposed to the enriched environment improved as compared with animals living in standard housing. The animals remained in the two housing conditions for six weeks prior to receiving unilateral infusion of the neurotoxin 6-hydroxydopamine into the nigrostriatal bundle. The daily behavioral testing continued up to four weeks after lesion. The observations showed that rats housed in an enriched environment significantly improved in reaching success during the first three weeks after lesion as compared with rats housed in the standard condition. Qualitative movement analysis, drug-induced rotation and histological findings indicate that compensatory processes in particular might have accounted for the behavioral improvements. These data are discussed in relation to possible mechanisms of experience-dependent modulation of the pathology of Parkinson's disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / deficiency*
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Mesencephalon / physiology
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans


  • Dopamine