A rich environmental experience reactivates visual cortex plasticity in aged rats.
ABSTRACT Brain aging is characterized by functional deterioration across multiple systems, associated to a progressive decay of neural plasticity. Here, we explored environmental enrichment (EE), a condition of enhanced sensory-motor and cognitive stimulation, as a strategy to restore plasticity processes in the old brain. Visual system is one of the paradigmatic models for studying experience-dependent plasticity. While reducing input from one eye through monocular deprivation induces a marked ocular dominance (OD) shift of neurons in the primary visual cortex during development, the same manipulation is totally ineffective after the closure of the critical period. We show that EE is able to reactivate OD plasticity in the visual cortex of aging rats, as assessed with both visual-evoked potentials and single-unit recordings. A marked reduction in intracortical GABAergic inhibition and a remodeling of extracellular matrix accompany this effect. The non-invasive nature of EE makes this paradigm eligible for human application.
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ABSTRACT: The brain's life-long capacity for experience-dependent plasticity allows adaptation to new environments or to changes in the environment, and to changes in internal brain states such as occurs in brain damage. Since the initial discovery by Hebb (1947) that environmental enrichment (EE) was able to confer improvements in cognitive behavior, EE has been investigated as a powerful form of experience-dependent plasticity. Animal studies have shown that exposure to EE results in a number of molecular and morphological alterations, which are thought to underpin changes in neuronal function and ultimately, behavior. These consequences of EE make it ideally suited for investigation into its use as a potential therapy after neurological disorders, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI). In this review, we aim to first briefly discuss the effects of EE on behavior and neuronal function, followed by a review of the underlying molecular and structural changes that account for EE-dependent plasticity in the normal (uninjured) adult brain. We then extend this review to specifically address the role of EE in the treatment of experimental TBI, where we will discuss the demonstrated sensorimotor and cognitive benefits associated with exposure to EE, and their possible mechanisms. Finally, we will explore the use of EE-based rehabilitation in the treatment of human TBI patients, highlighting the remaining questions regarding the effects of EE.Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience 09/2014; 8. DOI:10.3389/fnsys.2014.00156
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ABSTRACT: The nervous system is highly sensitive to experience during early postnatal life, but this phase of heightened plasticity decreases with age. Recent studies have demonstrated that developmental-like plasticity can be reactivated in the visual cortex of adult animals through environmental or pharmacological manipulations. These findings provide a unique opportunity to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms of adult plasticity. Here we used the monocular deprivation paradigm to investigate large-scale gene expression patterns underlying the reinstatement of plasticity produced by fluoxetine in the adult rat visual cortex. We found changes, confirmed with RT-PCRs, in gene expression in different biological themes, such as chromatin structure remodelling, transcription factors, molecules involved in synaptic plasticity, extracellular matrix, and excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission. Our findings reveal a key role for several molecules such as the metalloproteases Mmp2 and Mmp9 or the glycoprotein Reelin and open up new insights into the mechanisms underlying the reopening of the critical periods in the adult brain.Neural Plasticity 06/2013; 2013:605079. DOI:10.1155/2013/605079 · 3.60 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: 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'.Neuropharmacology 07/2012; 64(1):515-28. DOI:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.06.029 · 4.82 Impact Factor