Effects of enriched environment on animal models of neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders

Neurobiol Dis. 2008 Aug;31(2):159-68. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2008.05.001. Epub 2008 May 15.


Environmental stimulation throughout development adjusts the neurobehavioral systems involved in learning, memory and defensive responses. Environment-mediated phenotypic plasticity can be considered from two different, yet complementary, viewpoints. On one hand, the possibility that environmental interventions protect against the effects of genetic and/or acquired vulnerabilities, offers unprecedented avenues towards the elaboration and refinement of therapeutic strategies. On the other hand, an accurate understanding of the adaptive mechanisms regulating the interaction between an experimental subject and its environment may substantially benefit the quality of experimental data. Here we review experimental evidence showing that enriched environment can be beneficial in several psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders implicating the monoamine systems where it can (i) compensate for impairments in animal models of schizophrenia, Huntington's, and Parkinson's diseases; (ii) increase resistance to the addictive properties of psychostimulant drugs; (iii) level-out the consequences of prenatal stress in animal models of depression. Additionally we discuss why some of the effects of environmental enrichment question the validity of current animal models of mental disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biogenic Monoamines / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Environment Design*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / prevention & control
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / therapy*
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control


  • Biogenic Monoamines