Enriched experience and recovery from amblyopia in adult rats: impact of motor, social and sensory components

Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jun;62(7):2388-97. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.02.010.


Amblyopia is one of the most common forms of visual impairment, arising from an early functional imbalance between the two eyes. It is currently accepted that, due to a lack of neural plasticity,amblyopia is an untreatable pathology in adults. Environmental enrichment (EE) emerged as a strategy highly effective in restoring plasticity in adult animals, eliciting recovery from amblyopia through a reduction of intracortical inhibition. It is unknown whether single EE components are able to promote plasticity in the adult brain, crucial information for designing new protocols of environmental stimulation suitable for amblyopic human subjects. Here, we assessed the effects of enhanced physical exercise,increased social interaction, visual enrichment or perceptual learning on visual function recovery in adult amblyopic rats. We report a complete rescue of both visual acuity and ocular dominance in exercised rats, in animals exposed to visual enrichment and in animals engaged in perceptual learning.These effects were accompanied by a reduced inhibition/excitation balance in the visual cortex. In contrast, we did not detect any sign of recovery in socially enriched rats or in animals practicing a purely associative visual task. These findings could have a bearing in orienting clinical research in the field of amblyopia therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Amblyopia / physiopathology
  • Amblyopia / psychology
  • Amblyopia / rehabilitation*
  • Animals
  • Environment*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Learning / physiology
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / methods
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology