Environmental-enrichment-related variations in behavioral, biochemical, and physiologic responses of Sprague-Dawley and Long Evans rats

J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2010 Jul;49(4):427-36.


The behavioral, biochemical, and physiologic consequences of 6 wk of environmental enrichment were evaluated in male Long Evans and Sprague-Dawley rats and compared with those of rats in standard single-housing conditions. Standard housing provided little or no social or physical stimulation whereas environmental enrichment comprised group housing for 8 h daily in a 3-story cage equipped with novel stimuli. Dependent measures included performance in the forced swim test, thresholds for brain-stimulation reward, sucrose intake and preference, determination of corticosterone levels before and after brief restraint stress, and rate of weight gain. In forced swimming tests, active behaviors (diving, swimming with struggling, and climbing) tended to dominate over passive behaviors (sinking, floating) in both groups and outbred rat stocks (especially in enriched groups) on the first day. These behaviors were replaced with maintenance behaviors such as grooming and swimming without struggling on the second exposure, with enriched Long Evans rats showing the largest decline in activity. Baseline plasma corticosterone levels were elevated in both rat stocks after 6 wk of enrichment. After restraint stress, hormone levels in enriched animals tended to peak earlier and approach or exceed baseline values more quickly than was observed in the comparable control groups. Rate of body weight gain was greater in enriched Long Evans rats than Sprague-Dawley or control rats. Our observations indicate that stock- and group-associated differences in several indices occur in association with enrichment. The data support the claim that environmental enrichment may render animals more resilient to challenges.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Environment*
  • Grooming
  • Housing, Animal
  • Laboratory Animal Science / methods
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reward
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Swimming
  • Weight Gain


  • Corticosterone