Environmental enrichment effects on the neurobehavioral profile of selective outbred trait anxiety rats

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Abstract

Environmental enrichment attenuates the response to psychostimulants and has been shown to reduce both anxiety and stress-related behaviors. Since stress is a major vulnerability factor for addiction, we investigated whether enrichment could reverse stress profiles in high anxious rats as well as reduce their amphetamine sensitivity. Using selectively-bred high and low anxiety males (filial 3) from enriched, social or isolated environments, we tested elevated plus maze exploration, novelty place preference and amphetamine (AMPH; 0.5 mg/kg, IP)-induced hyperactivity. We measured plasma corticosterone (CORT) response after forced novel object exposure, phosphorylation of the tropomyosin-related kinase B receptor (pTrkB) in the hippocampus and striatum, and dopamine (D2) receptor mRNA levels in the striatum and nucleus accumbens. Results indicate that high anxiety animals reared in social or enriched environments spent more time on open arms of the EPM while low anxiety animals raised in enriched environments spent more time on open arms when compared to either isolated or social groups. There were no group differences or interactions found for novelty place preference. Enriched environments decreased the response to AMPH and stress-induced CORT regardless of trait but selectively decreased pTrkB and increased D2 mRNA levels in high anxiety animals. The results suggest that selectively-bred trait anxiety rats show state anxiety that is influenced by rearing environments, and D2 protein levels and BDNF/TrkB signaling may differentially contribute to integrating these effects.

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