Beneficial effects and neurobiological aspects of environmental enrichment associated to major depressive disorder and autism spectrum disorder

Brain Res Bull. 2022 Nov;190:152-167. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2022.09.024. Epub 2022 Oct 1.


A suitable enriched environment favors development but can also influence behavior and neuronal circuits throughout development. Studies have shown that environmental enrichment (EE) can be used as an essential tool or combined with conventional treatments to improve psychiatric and neurological symptoms, including major depressive disorder (MDD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Both disorders affect a significant percentage of the wofrld's population and have complex pathophysiology. Moreover, the available treatments for MDD and ASD are still inadequate for many affected individuals. Experimental models demonstrate that EE has significant positive effects on behavioral modulation. In addition, EE has effects on neurobiology, including improvement in synaptic connections and neuroplasticity, modulation of neurotransmissions, a decrease in inflammation and oxidative stress, and other neurobiology effects that can be involved in the pathophysiology of MDD and ASD. Thus, this review aims to describe the leading behavioral and neurobiological effects associated with EE in MDD and ASD.

Keywords: Animal model of autism; Animal model of depression; Autism spectrum disorders; Environmental enrichment; Major depressive disorder.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / psychology
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Neurobiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Neurons