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;
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ABSTRACT: The mechanisms of aging in the brain and the subsequent decrease in cognitive abilities remain elusive. While most studies refer to research conducted in old and senile animals, little is known about the early symptoms of normal, healthy aging. In this study, we examined whether perineuronal nets (PNNs), a special form of extracellular matrix tightly associated with neurons that is thought to be involved in limiting neuronal plasticity, undergo changes in density during early aging. Using histochemistry and immunohistochemistry, we found that in middle-aged mice (1 year old), the density of WFA-binding PNNs in somatosensory cortex as well as in the visual cortex was increased in comparison to that in young adults (3 months old). Moreover, in the somatosensory cortex, this increase was not associated with any of the GABAergic neuron types that were examined. We propose that early age-related changes in neuronal plasticity may be associated with this increase and can be conceptualized as the spreading of structural brakes for synaptic rearrangements.Neuroscience 07/2014; · 3.12 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Ocular dominance (OD) plasticity in mouse primary visual cortex (V1) declines during postnatal development and is absent beyond postnatal day 110 if mice are raised in standard cages (SCs). An enriched environment (EE) promotes OD plasticity in adult rats. Here, we explored cellular mechanisms of EE in mouse V1 and the therapeutic potential of EE to prevent impairments of plasticity after a cortical stroke. Using in vivo optical imaging, we observed that monocular deprivation in adult EE mice (i) caused a very strong OD plasticity previously only observed in 4-wk-old animals, (ii) restored already lost OD plasticity in adult SC-raised mice, and (iii) preserved OD plasticity after a stroke in the primary somatosensory cortex. Using patch-clamp electrophysiology in vitro, we also show that (iv) local inhibition was significantly reduced in V1 slices of adult EE mice and (v) the GABA/AMPA ratio was like that in 4-wk-old SC-raised animals. These observations were corroborated by in vivo analyses showing that diazepam treatment significantly reduced the OD shift of EE mice after monocular deprivation. Taken together, EE extended the sensitive phase for OD plasticity into late adulthood, rejuvenated V1 after 4 mo of SC-rearing, and protected adult mice from stroke-induced impairments of cortical plasticity. The EE effect was mediated most likely by preserving low juvenile levels of inhibition into adulthood, which potentially promoted adaptive changes in cortical circuits.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 01/2014; · 9.81 Impact Factor