Environmental enrichment (EE) has been proposed as a factor that improves neuronal connectivity and brain plasticity. The induction of molecular mechanisms that takes place in the cortex, nucleus accumbens and hippocampus resulting from exposure to EE has been attributed partly to the role of neurotrophins as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Recent data directly implicate this neurotrophin in the modulation of plasticity changes in the cerebellum produced by living under environmental enrichment. In the present study, we aimed to assess the effects of different lengths of exposure to EE on cerebellar BDNF expression and western blotting analysis. On the whole, the present data has shown that BDNF increased under EE. However, changes in expression as a result of extending the duration of EE were only seen in Purkinje neurons. In Purkinje neurons, long-term exposure was required in order to fully express this neurotrophin. These data support BDNF as one of the long-term plasticity mechanisms induced by environment, suggesting that cerebellar plasticity can be stimulated as a response to challenges generated by environment. Our findings could have functional implications for various neurodegenerative disorders such as spinocerebellar ataxias, autism, schizophrenia and certain prion encephalopathies, most of them pathologies which have demonstrated to be characterized by alterations in Purkinje neurons and to show a partial recovery by exposure to EE.
- Enriched environment