Environmental enrichment and physical exercise revert behavioral and electrophysiological impairments caused by reduced adult neurogenesis.

PMID 27701786


It is well known that adult neurogenesis occurs in two distinct regions, the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus and the subventricular zone along the walls of the lateral ventricles. Until now, the contribution of these newly born neurons to behavior and cognition is still uncertain. The current study tested the functional impacts of diminished hippocampal neurogenesis on emotional and cognitive functions in transgenic Gfap-tk mice. Our results showed that anxiety-related behavior evaluated both in the elevated plus maze as well as in the open field, social interaction in the sociability test, and spatial working memory in the spontaneous alternation test were not affected. On the other hand, recognition and emotional memory in the object recognition test and contextual fear conditioning, and hippocampal long-term potentiation were impaired in transgenic mice. Furthermore, we evaluated whether environmental enrichment together with physical exercise could improve or even restore the level of adult neurogenesis, as well as the behavioral functions. Our results clearly demonstrated that environmental enrichment together with physical exercise successfully elevated the overall number of progenitor cells and young neurons in the dentate gyrus of transgenic mice. Furthermore, it led to a significant improvement in object recognition memory and contextual fear conditioning, and reverted impairments in hippocampal long-term potentiation. Thus, our results confirm the importance of adult neurogenesis for learning and memory processes and for hippocampal circuitry in general. Environmental enrichment and physical exercise beneficially influenced adult neurogenesis after it had been disrupted and most importantly recovered cognitive functions and long-term potentiation. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.