Rapid laminar-dependent changes in GFAP immunoreactive astrocytes in the visual cortex of rats reared in a complex environment

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1996 Feb;21(2):189-201. doi: 10.1016/0306-4530(95)00041-0.


Neuronal changes in the visual cortex have previously been found to occur within days of housing weanling rats in a complex environment (EC) compared to rats housed in standard laboratory cages (IC). In contrast, layer IV astrocytes immunostained for glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) have been found to be slow to change. Recent quantitative analysis has shown the surface density of GFAP immunoreactive (GFAP-IR) astrocytes in young rats to be significantly lower in layer IV in comparison to layer II/III. In the present study, the analysis of experience effects on GFAP-IR astrocytes was extended to include layer II/III as well as layer IV of EC and IC rats. The surface density of GFAP-IR processes was found to be significantly increased within layer II/III after 4-10 days of EC rearing in comparison to IC rats. Consistent with previous findings, housing condition did not significantly affect GFAP-IR within layer IV during these early time points. It is possible that GFAP immunocytochemistry is not a sensitive means of detecting experience-induced early changes in astrocytes within layer IV of weanling rats. The rapid astrocytic changes detected in layer II/III are suggestive of a close relationship between astrocytic plasticity and experience-induced synaptic plasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology*
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism*
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Social Environment*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Visual Cortex / cytology*


  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein