Environmental enrichment mitigates the effects of basal forebrain lesions on cognitive flexibility

Neuroscience. 2008 Jun 23;154(2):444-53. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.03.069. Epub 2008 Apr 7.


The aim of the present study was to investigate whether basal forebrain lesions were able to impair a task requiring cognitive flexibility abilities and analyzing the effect of the rearing in an enriched environment on such form of flexibility in rats with or without basal forebrain cholinergic lesions. In adult rats reared in enriched or standard conditions of the cholinergic projection to the neocortex damage was inflicted by 192 IgG-saporin injection into Ch4 region of basal forebrain. Their performance was compared with those of intact animals reared in analogous conditions in a four-choice serial learning task which taps flexibility in adapting to changing response rules. The results underlined the crucial role of the basal forebrain in mediating cognitive flexibility behaviors and revealed that the increase in social interactions, cognitive stimulation and physical activity of the rearing in enriched environment attenuated impairments caused by the cholinergic lesion. These findings demonstrate that rearing in an enriched environment can improve the ability to cope with brain damage suffered in adulthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / toxicity
  • Brain Chemistry / drug effects
  • Choice Behavior / drug effects
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Environment*
  • Immunotoxins / toxicity
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Prosencephalon / drug effects
  • Prosencephalon / metabolism
  • Prosencephalon / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Ribosome Inactivating Proteins, Type 1 / toxicity
  • Saporins
  • Serial Learning / drug effects
  • Serial Learning / physiology
  • Social Behavior


  • 192 IgG-saporin
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Immunotoxins
  • Ribosome Inactivating Proteins, Type 1
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase
  • Saporins