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Keywords:

  • cocaine;
  • development;
  • enriched environment;
  • social interactions

Exposure to cocaine in early periods of postnatal life is usually associated with changes in development of neurotransmitter systems and structure of the central nervous system. Such changes are most likely correlated with behavioral alterations. Environmental enrichment conditions (EC) in early stages is a factor that affects structural and behavioral development. The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of EC on rats postnatally exposed to cocaine on exploratory behavior. Wistar rats were assigned to four groups—Group 1: pups exposed to cocaine hydrochloride (15 mg/kg body weight/day) s.c., in two daily doses, from postnatal day (PND) 1 to 28 and reared in EC; Group 2: pups exposed to cocaine as previously described and reared in a standard environmental conditions (SC); Group 3: pups saline-injected and reared in EC; and Group 4: pups saline-injected and reared in SC. On PND 21, 24, and 28, groups of four rats (to reduce anxiety) were placed for 10 minutes into an arena with several objects. The following exploratory behavioral categories were examined: object interaction, exploration, manipulation, approximation, and total time of object contact. Animals from Group 2 showed decreased object interaction and total contact on PND 21. Control offspring reared in EE showed decreases in exploratory behavior at all ages analyzed compared with the control SE group, while cocaine-exposed animals reared in EC showed decreased object interaction, object approximation, and total exploratory behavior. The results in this group suggest that EC improved information acquisition and memory processes in animals postnatally exposed to cocaine.