Enhancement of cognitive function in models of brain disease through environmental enrichment and physical activity

Neuropharmacology. 2013 Jan;64:515-28. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.06.029. Epub 2012 Jul 2.


This review will provide an overview of the non-drug based approaches that have been demonstrated to enhance cognitive function of the compromised brain, primarily focussed on the two most widely adopted paradigms of environmental enrichment and enhanced physical exercise. Environmental enrichment involves the generation of novelty and complexity in animal housing conditions which facilitates enhanced sensory and cognitive stimulation as well as physical activity. In a wide variety of animal models of brain disorders, environmental enrichment and exercise have been found to have beneficial effects, including cognitive enhancement, delayed disease onset, enhanced cellular plasticity and associated molecular processes. Potential cellular and molecular mechanisms will also be discussed, which have relevance for the future development of 'enviromimetics', drugs which could mimic or enhance the beneficial effects of environmental stimulation. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Cognitive Enhancers'.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Animals
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology
  • Brain Diseases / therapy*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Cognition*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Mice
  • Motor Activity*
  • Rats
  • Running