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Environmental enrichment blocks ethanol-induced locomotor sensitization and decreases BDNF levels in the prefrontal cortex in mice


Rosana Camarini, Departamento de Farmacologia, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Prof. Lineu Prestes, 1524, São Paulo, SP 05508-900, Brazil. E-mail:


The use of addictive drugs can lead to long-term neuroplastic changes in the brain, including behavioral sensitization, a phenomenon related to addiction. Environmental enrichment (EE) is a strategy used to study the effect of environment on the response to several manipulations, including treatment with addictive drugs. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been associated with behaviors related to ethanol addiction. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effects of EE on ethanol-induced behavioral sensitization and BDNF expression. Mice were exposed to EE and then repeatedly treated with a low dose (1.8 g/kg) of ethanol. Another group of mice was first subjected to repeated ethanol treatment according to the behavioral sensitization protocol and then exposed to EE. Environmental enrichment prevented the development of ethanol-induced behavioral sensitization and blocked behavioral sensitization in sensitized mice. Both repeated ethanol and EE decreased BDNF levels in the prefrontal cortex but not in the hippocampus. However, BDNF levels were lower in ethanol-treated mice exposed to EE. These findings suggest that EE can act on the mechanisms implicated in behavioral sensitization, a model for drug-induced neuroplasticity and relapse. Additionally, EE alters BDNF levels, which regulate addiction-related behaviors.