Stress, prefrontal cortex and environmental enrichment: studies on dopamine and acetylcholine release and working memory performance in rats

Behav Brain Res. 2007 Jan 25;176(2):267-73. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2006.10.006. Epub 2006 Nov 13.


The aim of the present study was to investigate whether environmental enrichment changes the effects of acute stress on both the release of dopamine and acetylcholine in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and working memory performance. Male Wistar rats (3 months of age) were housed in enriched or control conditions during 12 months. Behavioural testing was carried out to assess working memory performance in a delayed alternation task (water escape T-maze). Horizontal and vertical motor activity were also monitored in the open field. After behavioural testing (open field and water T-maze), animals were implanted with guide cannula in the PFC to perform microdialysis experiments and to monitor dopamine and acetylcholine extracellular concentrations. Handling stress (40min) produced similar increases of extracellular concentrations of dopamine in the PFC of both enriched and control animals. In contrast, handling stress increased significantly the extracellular concentrations of acetylcholine in the PFC of control, but not enriched, animals. Exposing animals to a lit open field during 10min significantly reduced working memory performance assessed immediately in the water T-maze just in control animals, though these effects were not significantly different between both groups of animals. Spontaneous motor activity in the open field was lower in enriched compared to control animals. These results suggest that environmental enrichment changes acetylcholine, but not dopamine, reactivity to stress in the PFC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Environment*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Microdialysis / methods
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Time Factors


  • Acetylcholine
  • Dopamine