Enhancing cognition through pharmacological and environmental interventions: Examples from preclinical models of neurodevelopmental disorders

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2020 Mar;110:28-45. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.02.003. Epub 2019 Apr 10.


In this review we discuss the role of environmental and pharmacological treatments to enhance cognition with special regards to neurodevelopmental related disorders and aging. How the environment influences brain structure and function, and the interactions between rearing conditions and gene expression, are fundamental questions that are still poorly understood. We propose a model that can explain some of the discrepancies in findings for effects of environmental enrichment on outcome measures. Evidence of a direct causal correlation of nootropics and treatments that enhanced cognition also will be presented, and possible molecular mechanisms that include neurotrophin signaling and downstream pathways underlying these processes are discussed. Finally we review recent findings achieved with a wide set of behavioral and cognitive tasks that have translational validity to humans, and should be useful for future work on devising appropriate therapies. As will be discussed, the collective findings suggest that a combinational therapeutic approach of environmental enrichment and nootropics could be particularly successful for improving learning and memory in both developmental disorders and normal aging.

Keywords: Cognitive impairment; Environmental enrichment; Neuro developmental disorders; Nootropics; Ras-ERK pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognition Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Humans
  • Learning / drug effects
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Nootropic Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Nootropic Agents