Behavioral effects of environmental enrichment during gestation in WKY and Wistar rats

Behav Brain Res. 2012 Aug 1;233(2):245-55. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2012.05.006. Epub 2012 May 15.


Effects of prenatal environmental enrichment (EE) were examined in Wistar Kyoto (WKY) "depressive- and anxious-like" rats and Wistar rats. During gestation, dams lived in standard cages or in EE cages. Their behavior during gestation and lactation was observed. On weaning day, they were tested in the forced swimming test, and corticosterone concentration was measured from their plasma. The offspring, reared in standard environment, were tested as juveniles or young adults in the elevated plus maze, open field and forced swimming tests. Corticosterone concentration in feces was analyzed. EE offspring showed more anxiety-like behaviors and less activity, compared to controls. Effects were more prominent in youth than in adulthood and in Wistar rats more than in WKY. EE lowered corticosterone concentration in young WKY rats' feces. EE induced changes in the dams' behavior during gestation and lactation. These changes in dams' behavior could be mediators of the effects on the offspring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Corticosterone / metabolism
  • Environment*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Female
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology*
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / physiopathology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred WKY
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Swimming / psychology


  • Corticosterone