Environmental enrichment in male CD-1 mice promotes aggressive behaviors and elevated corticosterone and brain norepinephrine activity in response to a mild stressor

Stress. 2012 May;15(3):354-60. doi: 10.3109/10253890.2011.623249. Epub 2011 Oct 13.


Housing rodents in an enriched environment (EE) has been typically considered to have positive effects on well-being and cognitive functioning of the animals. However, in some strains of mice, EEs have also been reported to elicit aggression and to promote stress-related outcomes. In the current investigation, we examined whether environmental enrichment would elicit aggression among CD-1 male mice and thus sensitize responses to a subsequent mild stressor. It was first observed that mice housed in an EE for 2 weeks displayed more aggressive behaviors than did mice that had been housed in a standard environment (SE). In the second experiment, it was noted that after 4 weeks of EE or SE housing, mice exhibited comparable plasma corticosterone concentrations as well as levels of brain norepinephrine and its metabolite, 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG), in the absence of a challenge. However, upon exposure to mild stressor (placement in a novel cage), relative to their SE counterparts, EE mice were more active and displayed higher plasma corticosterone concentrations and enhanced MHPG accumulation in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. It seems that enrichment in male CD-1 mice promotes aggression, and may sensitize biological processes, possibly increasing vulnerability to stressor-related outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Corticosterone / blood*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Environment*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol / blood
  • Mice
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*


  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol
  • Corticosterone
  • Norepinephrine