Environmental enrichment reduces the function of D1 dopamine receptors in the prefrontal cortex of the rat.

Research paper by A A Del Arco, G G Segovia, J J JJ Canales, P P Garrido, M M de Blas, J M JM García-Verdugo, F F Mora

Indexed on: 07 Sep '06Published on: 07 Sep '06Published in: Journal of Neural Transmission - Parkinson's Disease and Dementia Section


Environmental enrichment produces changes in spontaneous and psychostimulant-induced motor activity. Dopamine in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), through the activation of D1 receptors, has been suggested to play a role in modulating motor activity. The present study investigated the effects of environmental enrichment on spontaneous motor activity, prefrontal acetylcholine release following local D1 receptor stimulation and D1 receptor expression in the PFC. Male wistar rats (3 months of age) were housed in enriched or isolated conditions during 90 days. Animals were then implanted with guide cannulae to perform microdialysis experiments in the PFC. Spontaneous motor activity and acetylcholine extracellular concentrations were monitored simultaneously. Also spontaneous motor activity was measured in an open field. On completion of the experiments, the density of D1 receptors in the PFC was studied by immunocytochemistry. Rats housed in an enriched environment showed significantly lower spontaneous motor activity in the open field compared to isolated animals. Perfusion of the D1 agonist SKF38393 (50 microM; 40 min) in the PFC produced long lasting increases of spontaneous motor activity and of local dialysate concentrations of acetylcholine in both groups of rats. However, increases of both motor activity and acetylcholine concentrations were significantly lower in enriched compared to isolated animals. Moreover, the density of D1 receptors in the PFC was significantly reduced in animals housed in an enriched environment. These results are the first evidence suggesting that environmental enrichment during adult life changes the function of D1 dopamine receptors in the PFC.