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Medical Science Monitor Basic Research


eISSN: 1643-3750

Environmental Enrichment Improves Spatial Learning and Memory in Vascular Dementia Rats with Activation of Wnt/β-Catenin Signal Pathway

Xinhao Jin, Tao Li, Lina Zhang, Jingxi Ma, Lehua Yu, Changqing Li, Lingchuan Niu

Department of Neurology, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China (mainland)

Med Sci Monit 2017; 23:207-215

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.902728

Available online:

Published: 2017-01-13


BACKGROUND: Environmental enrichment (EE) has a beneficial effect on some neuropsychiatric disorders. In this study, we aimed to investigate whether environmental enrichment could improve the spatial learning and memory in rats with vascular dementia (VaD) and the mechanism underpinning it.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Bilateral common carotid occlusion (2-vessel occlusion [2VO]) was used to develop the animal model of vascular dementia. Adult male Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were used in the experiment and were randomly divided into 4 groups: sham group, 2VO group, sham+EE group, and 2VO+EE group (n=19/group). The 2VO group and 2VO+EE group underwent bilateral common carotid occlusion. Two different housing conditions were used in this experiment: standard environment (SE) and enriched environment (EE). Rats in the sham group and 2VO group were put into SE cages for 4 weeks, while rats in the sham+EE group and 2VO+EE group were put in EE cages for 4 weeks. The Morris water maze and Y-maze were used to assess spatial learning and memory. Apoptosis was detected by TUNEL. The damage of neurons in the hippocampus was assessed by Nissl staining. The level of wnt pathway proteins were detected by Western blot.
RESULTS: Compared with the 2VO group, the rats in the 2VO+EE group had better behavioral performance, fewer apoptotic neurons, and more surviving neurons. Western blot analysis showed that the levels of wnt pathway proteins were higher in 2VO+EE rats than in the 2VO group.
CONCLUSIONS: Environmental enrichment can improve the spatial learning and memory in rats with vascular dementia, and the mechanism may be related to activation of the wnt/β-catenin signal pathway.

Keywords: Cognition, Dementia, Vascular, Environmental Exposure, Wnt Signaling Pathway