Housing environment influences stress-related hippocampal substrates and depression-like behavior

Brain Res. 2018 Mar 15;1683:78-85. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2018.01.021. Epub 2018 Feb 2.


Rats are widely used animal models for biological psychiatry and neuroscience. Laboratory rats are typically housed in impoverished sensory environments. The lack of species-typical sensory environment might radically change the response of individual animals to stressful and/or threatening episodes. In this report, we demonstrate that behavioral and neural sequelae of chronic stress were modified by sensory environment of adult male rats. This includes effects of stress on the density of spines on CA3 hippocampal neurons, hippocampal neurogenesis and abundance of glucocorticoid or mineralocorticoid receptors. Enrichment also reduced depression-like behavior in a forced swim task. Stress and sensory enrichment evoked opposing effects on all the above endpoints. The sensory enrichment used in this report is of a relatively short duration provided during adulthood. This period excludes critical windows of greater plasticity during pre- and peripubertal stages. Our results suggest that standard housing practices for laboratory rats remain austere concerning sensory requirements of this species. Thus, even a moderate sensory enrichment is capable of reducing high stress-sensitivity and depressive-like behavior in standard laboratory rats.

Keywords: CA3; Enriched environment; Forced swimming; Glucocorticoids; Hippocampus; Neurogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Environment*
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology*
  • Housing, Animal*
  • Male
  • Neurogenesis / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology