Environmental enrichment restores neurogenesis and rapid acquisition in aged rats

Rachel B. Speisman, Ashok Kumar, Asha Rani, Jessica M. Pastoriza, Jamie E. Severance, Thomas C. Foster, Brandi K. Ormerod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Strategies combatting cognitive decline among the growing aging population are vital. We tested whether environmental enrichment could reverse age-impaired rapid spatial search strategy acquisition concomitantly with hippocampal neurogenesis in rats. Young (5-8 months) and aged (20-22 months) male Fischer 344 rats were pair-housed and exposed to environmental enrichment (n = 7 young, 9 aged) or housed individually (n = 7 young, 7 aged) for 10 weeks. After 5 weeks, hidden platform trials (5 blocks of 3 trials; 15 m inter-block interval), a probe trial, and then visible platform trials (5 blocks of 3 trials; 15 m inter-block interval) commenced in the water maze. One week after testing, rats were given 5 daily intraperitoneal bromodeoxyuridine (50 mg/kg) injections and perfused 4 weeks later to quantify neurogenesis. Although young rats outperformed aged rats, aged enriched rats outperformed aged individually housed rats on all behavioral measures. Neurogenesis decreased with age but enrichment enhanced new cell survival, regardless of age. The novel correlation between new neuron number and behavioral measures obtained in a rapid water maze task among aged rats, suggests that environmental enrichment increases their ability to rapidly acquire and flexibly use spatial information along with neurogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-274
Number of pages12
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult neurogenesis
  • Age-related
  • Enrichment
  • Fisher 344
  • Hippocampus
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Neural progenitor cell
  • Water maze

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Aging
  • Developmental Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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