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Impact of enriched environment on motor performance and learning in mice

Research group De Zeeuw
Publication year 2024
Published in Scientific Reports
Authors S Dijkhuizen, L M C Van Ginneken, A H C IJpelaar, S K E Koekkoek, C I De Zeeuw, H J Boele

Neuroscience heavily relies on animal welfare in laboratory rodents as it can significantly affect brain development, cognitive function and memory formation. Unfortunately, laboratory animals are often raised in artificial environments devoid of physical and social stimuli, potentially leading to biased outcomes in behavioural assays. To assess this effect, we examined the impact of social and physical cage enrichment on various forms of motor coordination. Our findings indicate that while enriched-housed animals did not exhibit faster learning in eyeblink conditioning, the peak timing of their conditioned responses was slightly, but significantly, improved. Additionally, enriched-housed animals outperformed animals that were housed in standard conditions in the accelerating rotarod and ErasmusLadder test. In contrast, we found no significant effect of enrichment on the balance beam and grip strength test. Overall, our data suggest that an enriched environment can improve motor performance and motor learning under challenging and/or novel circumstances, possibly reflecting an altered state of anxiety.

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