Physical enrichment enhances memory function by regulating stress hormone and brain acetylcholinesterase activity in rats exposed to restraint stress

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Abstract

To study the effects of stress on mental health activity is of great importance in neuropsychological studies as it may affect the lifelong performance related to brain and overall health and wellbeing of an individual. It is observed very often that exposure to stress during early life can alter the brain function which may reflect as cognitive disability. Impairment of memory is associated with increased oxidative stress which is due to enhanced production of free radicals that may lead to lipid peroxidation and disintegration of cell structure and functions. Exposure to enriched environment has shown to enhance spatial learning and memory, although the underlying mechanism covering the regulation of antioxidant capacity is limited. Here we investigated short and long term memory using Morris water maze before and after giving restraint stress procedure in rats exposed to social and physically enriched environment. Levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) in brain tissue were estimated. Plasma corticosterone was also determined after decapitation. Results demonstrated that rats pre-exposed to physical along with social enrichment showed improved short and long term memory as compared to control group. However, restraint stress exerted differential effects in socially and physically enriched groups. Reduced lipid peroxidation and decreased activity of SOD, GPx and AChE were observed in physically enriched rats subjected to stress as compared to stressed rats kept in social environment. Levels of corticosterone were also found to be significantly reduced in rats kept in physically enriched environment. This study shows the beneficial effects of environmental enrichment on learning and spatial memory by reducing oxidative stress via reducing lipid peroxidation and regulation of antioxidant enzymes in rats.

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