Environmental enrichment improves functional and neuropathological indices following stroke in young and aged rats.
ABSTRACT Aging is associated with a temporally dysregulated cellular response to ischemia as well as poor functional recovery. While environmental enrichment has been shown to improve the behavioral outcome of stroke in young animals, the effect of an enriched environment on behavioral and neuropathological recovery in aged animals is not known.
Focal cerebral ischemia was produced by electrocoagulation of the right middle cerebral artery in 3 month- and 20 month-old male Sprague-Dawley rats. The functional outcome was assessed in neurobehavioral tests conducted over a period of 28 days following surgery. Brain tissue was then immunostained for proliferating astrocytes and the infarct and scar tissue volumes were measured.
Aged rats showed more severe behavioral impairments and diminished functional recovery compared to young rats. Most infarcted animals had disturbances of sensorimotor function, with recovery beginning later, progressing more slowly, and reaching a lower functional endpoint in aged animals. However, the enriched environment significantly improved the rate and extent of recovery in aged animals. Correlation analysis revealed that the beneficial effect of the enriched environment on recovery, both in young and aged rats, correlated highly with a reduction in infarct size, in the number of proliferating astrocytes, and in the volume of the glial scar.
These results suggest that temporally modulating astrocytic proliferation and the ensuing scar formation might be a fruitful approach to improving functional recovery after stroke in aged rats.
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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: Stroke has limited treatment options, demanding a vigorous search for new therapeutic strategies. Initial enthusiasm to stimulate restorative processes in the ischemic brain by means of cell-based therapies has meanwhile converted into a more balanced view recognizing impediments related to unfavorable environments that are in part related to aging processes. Since stroke afflicts mostly the elderly, it is highly desirable and clinically important to test the efficacy of cell therapies in aged brain microenvironments. Although widely believed to be refractory to regeneration, recent studies using both neural precursor cells and bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells for stroke therapy suggest that the aged rat brain is not refractory to cell-based therapy, and that it also supports plasticity and remodeling. Yet, important differences exist in the aged compared with young brain, i.e., the accelerated progression of ischemic injury to brain infarction, the reduced rate of endogenous neurogenesis and the delayed initiation of neurological recovery. Pitfalls in the development of cell-based therapies may also be related to age-associated comorbidities, e.g., diabetes or hyperlipidemia, which may result in maladaptive or compromised brain remodeling, respectively. These age-related aspects should be carefully considered in the clinical translation of restorative therapies.Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 01/2014; 8:347. · 4.47 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Systemic transplantation of neural progenitor cells (NPCs) in rodents reduces functional impairment after cerebral ischemia. In light of upcoming stroke trials regarding safety and feasibility of NPC transplantation, experimental studies have to successfully analyze the extent of NPC-induced neurorestoration on the functional level. However, appropriate behavioral tests for analysis of post-stroke motor coordination deficits and cognitive impairment after NPC grafting are not fully established. We therefore exposed male C57BL6 mice to either 45 min (mild) or 90 min (severe) of cerebral ischemia, using the thread occlusion model followed by intravenous injection of PBS or NPCs 6 h post-stroke with an observation period of three months. Post-stroke motor coordination was assessed by means of the rota rod, tight rope, corner turn, inclined plane, grip strength, foot fault, adhesive removal, pole test and balance beam test, whereas cognitive impairment was analyzed using the water maze, the open field and the passive avoidance test. Significant motor coordination differences after both mild and severe cerebral ischemia in favor of NPC-treated mice were observed for each motor coordination test except for the inclined plane and the grip strength test, which only showed significant differences after severe cerebral ischemia. Cognitive impairment after mild cerebral ischemia was successfully assessed using the water maze test, the open field and the passive avoidance test. On the contrary, the water maze test was not suitable in the severe cerebral ischemia paradigm, as it too much depends on motor coordination capabilities of test mice. In terms of both reliability and cost-effectiveness considerations, we thus recommend the corner turn, foot fault, balance beam, and open field test, which do not depend on durations of cerebral ischemia.Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 01/2014; 8:338. · 4.47 Impact Factor