The role of voluntary exercise in enriched rearing: a behavioral analysis

Susanna Pietropaolo, Joram Feldon, Enrico Alleva, Francesca Cirulli, Benjamin K Yee
Behavioral Neuroscience 2006, 120 (4): 787-803
The effects of postweaning enriched rearing and home cage voluntary wheel-running exercise in adulthood were contrasted on a comprehensive battery of tests designed to assess mnemonic, attentional, emotional, and motor functions. In a 2 x 2 factorial design, female C57BL/6 mice were housed in groups in either standard or enriched cages, which were equipped with either a running or a locked wheel. They were maintained in the corresponding housing conditions for 2 months postweaning prior to, and throughout, testing. Enriched rearing was associated with anxiogenesis, hypolocomotor activity, enhanced motor skills, retarded extinction of conditioned responding, and improved water maze performance. Exercise as such enhanced motor coordination and facilitated extinction of contextual conditioning. Evidence for an interaction between enrichment and exercise was apparent in the open field test, conditioned freezing to a tone stimulus, prepulse inhibition, and acquisition of water maze reference memory. Hence, care should be taken to control for the unique contribution of wheel-running exercise when it is included as an integral component of the enrichment procedure.

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