Environmental enrichment promotes plasticity and visual acuity recovery in adult monocular amblyopic rats

PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e34815. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034815. Epub 2012 Apr 11.


Loss of visual acuity caused by abnormal visual experience during development (amblyopia) is an untreatable pathology in adults. In some occasions, amblyopic patients loose vision in their better eye owing to accidents or illnesses. While this condition is relevant both for its clinical importance and because it represents a case in which binocular interactions in the visual cortex are suppressed, it has scarcely been studied in animal models. We investigated whether exposure to environmental enrichment (EE) is effective in triggering recovery of vision in adult amblyopic rats rendered monocular by optic nerve dissection in their normal eye. By employing both electrophysiological and behavioral assessments, we found a full recovery of visual acuity in enriched rats compared to controls reared in standard conditions. Moreover, we report that EE modulates the expression of GAD67 and BDNF. The non invasive nature of EE renders this paradigm promising for amblyopia therapy in adult monocular people.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amblyopia / physiopathology
  • Amblyopia / therapy*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Electrophysiology
  • Gene Expression
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Optic Nerve Injuries
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Social Environment*
  • Vision, Monocular / physiology*
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiopathology*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase
  • glutamate decarboxylase 1