Background. Environmental enrichment (EE) defined as "a combination of complex inanimate and social stimulation" influences brain function and anatomy by enhancing sensory, cognitive, motor, and social stimulation. The beneficial effects of EE in the presence of brain damage have been partially attributed to upregulation of neurotrophins, proteins involved in neuronal survival and in activity-dependent plasticity. Objective. The authors tested the hypothesis that EE may have advantageous effects on recovery of motor function after cerebellar damage, associated with changes in local neurotrophin production. Methods. They performed a hemicerebellectomy in rats previously exposed to EE or reared in standard conditions. The time course of compensation of motor symptoms was analyzed in both lesioned groups. Then, the local production of the nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the spared hemicerebellum and other extracerebellar regions was evaluated. Results. Long-term exposure to EE accelerated the motor recovery in hemicerebellectomized rats and elicited an increase in NGF levels in the spared hemicerebellum, as compared with nonenriched lesioned and control rats. BDNF levels were higher in hemicerebellectomized rats but not influenced by EE. In the frontal cortex, both NGF and BDNF levels were upregulated in hemicerebellectomized enriched rats as compared with hemicerebellectomized nonenriched and control rats. Conclusions. This study suggests that the beneficial effects of EE on motor symptoms after cerebellar damage may be, at least partly, because of modulation of neurotrophic proteins involved in the regeneration processes. © The Author(s) 2011.
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