Enriched environment treatment restores impaired hippocampal synaptic plasticity and cognitive deficits induced by prenatal chronic stress

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2007 Feb;87(2):257-63. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2006.09.001. Epub 2006 Oct 17.


Prenatal stress can cause long-term effects on cognitive functions in offspring. Hippocampal synaptic plasticity, believed to be the mechanism underlying certain types of learning and memory, and known to be sensitive to behavioral stress, can be changed by prenatal stress. Whether enriched environment treatment (EE) in early postnatal periods can cause a recovery from these deficits is unknown. Experimental animals were Wistar rats. Prenatal stress was evoked by 10 foot shocks (0.8 mA for 1s, 2-3 min apart) in 30 min per day at gestational day 13-19. After weaning at postnatal day 22, experimental offspring were given the enriched environment treatment through all experiments until tested (older than 52 days age). Electrophysiological and Morris water maze testing was performed at 8 weeks of age. The results showed that prenatal stress impaired long-term potentiation (LTP) but facilitated long-term depression (LTD) in the hippocampal CA1 region in the slices. Furthermore, prenatal stress exacerbated the effects of acute stress on hippocampal LTP and LTD, and also impaired spatial learning and memory in the Morris water maze. However, all these deficits induced by prenatal stress were recovered by enriched environment treatment. This work observes a phenomenon that may contribute to the understanding of clinically important interactions among cognitive deficit, prenatal stress and enriched environment treatment. Enriched environment treatment on early postnatal periods may be one potentially important target for therapeutic interventions in preventing the prenatal stress-induced cognitive disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Environment*
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects* / etiology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects* / pathology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects* / physiopathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Stress, Psychological*