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Table 2 Summary of neurodevelopmental animal model behavioral studies using environmental enrichment paradigm

From: Using animal models of enriched environments to inform research on sensory integration intervention for the rehabilitation of neurodevelopmental disorders

Study Diagnostic/Behavior impairment Animal model Enriched condition Behavioral outcomes measured Findings
Schneider et al. (2006) Autism VPA rats (male only) Large cage (60 × 60 × 40 cm); stimulating materials including swings and wheel runners, materials changed every two days Nocioception, Tactile threshold, Sensorimotor gating, locomotor activity, repetitive/stereotypic behavior, exploratory activity, social behavior, social (play behavior), anxiety related behavior Exposure to enriched condition normalized response to pain, reduced tactile hypersensitivity, stronger acoustic pre-pulse inhibition, lower locomotor activity, reduced stereotypic behaviors, enhanced exploratory activity, decreased anxiety, increased social behavior.
Restivo et al. (2005) Fragile X FMR1-KO mice Exposure to two enriched cages, variety of toys and materials presented including, climbing structure and running wheel. Materials changed every three days. Open field exploration, object habituation, hyperactivity Enrichment reduced anxiety-like behaviors in open field and restored object habituation. No effect of enriched condition on hyperactivity.
Kondo et al. (2008) Rett Syndrome MeCP2tm1Tam mice Larger home cages with a variety of objects and running wheels. Objects changed every two days. Motor coordination, Locomotor activity Environmental enrichment improved motor coordination prevented progressive coordination deficit from developing in female mice only.
Nag et al. (2009) Rett Syndrome MeCP21lox mice (male only) Larger housing (470 mm × 250 mm × 210 mm), variety of objects including climbing structure and running wheel. Objects changed weekly. Locomotor activity, Balance and motor coordination, Fear conditioning Environmental enrichment improved locomotor activity and showed a trend towards improving freezing responses to contextual fear. No effects on motor coordination or cued fear conditioning were found.
Lonetti et al. (2010) Rett Syndrome MeCP2 mice Not described Motor coordination, motor learning, anxiety-related behavior Enrichment ameliorated motor coordination and motor learning deficits in males. Reduced memory deficits and anxiety related behavior in females.
Martinez-Cue et al. (2002) Down Syndrome Ts65Dn mice Larger cage (42 × 50 × 20 cm) with climbing ladder, running wheel, and toys which were changed every three days. Foods of different tastes were added with varying degrees of difficulty to acquire them. Spontaneous activity, Exploratory behavior, Spatial memory Environmental enrichment increased exploratory behavior for male and female Ts65Dn mice. Improved spatial learning was observed for females only.
Martinez-Cue et al. (2005) Down Syndrome Ts65Dn mice (male only) Enrichment in standard housing with 2-3 mice per cage with toys, bedding, and increasing challenges to find food. Aggressive behavior, Anxiety-related behavior, Spatial learning Performance was deteriorated in Ts65Dn mice exposed to the social enrichment condition.
Enrichment in social condition with 8-10 animals per large cage (42 × 50 × 20 cm). Activity wheel and swing were provided as were increased challenges to find food.
Hannigan et al. (1993) FASD Rats prenatally exposed to alcohol Housed 8 per cage in large arena (1 × 1 × .6 m). A variety of toys/materials were provided and changed every 3 days. Animals handled daily. Motor coordination (gait), Spatial memory Environmental enrichment ameliorated ataxic gait patterns’ and improved spatial learning in rats exposed prenatally to alcohol.
Wainwright et al. (1993) FASD Rats prenatally exposed to alcohol Housed 12 per cage in larger cages (61 × 61 × 30 cm). Toys were changed every second day and the environment afforded opportunities to climb and dig. Spatial Learning Improved speed of learning in enriched animals.
Powell et al. (2000) Stereotyped Behavior Deer Mice (Permoyscus maniculatus) Larger more complex housing (609 × 480 × 100 cm) equipped with bedding, mesh cylinders and places to hide. Exhibition of stereotyped behaviors Exposure to enriched housing condition reduced the amount of spontaneous stereotyped behavior exhibited in the mice.
Turner et al. (2003) Stereotyped Behavior Deer Mice (Permoyscus maniculatus) Larger multi-compartment housing with ramps bedding, running wheel, shelter and toys. Objects changed on weekly basis. Bird seed scattered to encourage foraging behaviors. Exhibition of stereotyped behaviors Enriched mice exhibited significantly less stereotypic behavior than standard-cage mice.
Morley-Fletcher et al. (2003) Prenatal Stress Rats prenatally exposed to stress Larger paired housing (40 × 25 × 30 cm) with a variety of materials, suspended objects, and a wheel. Objects were changed two times per week. Social interaction, Social (play) behaviors Following enrichment, rats prenatally exposed to stress showed increased play behavior and reduced hormonal stress levels.
Laviola et al. (2004) Prenatal Stress Rats prenatally exposed to stress Larger social housing (40 × 25 × 30 cm) with a variety of materials, climbing platforms, and a wheel. Objects were changed every three days. Exploratory behavior, social interaction/play behavior Enriched housing increased play behavior in prenatally stressed rats. No improvements in exploratory behavior were noted.
Qian et al. (2008) Prenatal Stress Rats prenatally exposed to stress Larger cages (80 × 60 × 40 cm) with 10 rats per cage. Cages equipped with wheel, shelter, toys, swings and tunnels. Tosy and materials changed once per week. Fearful behavior Reduced fearfulness seen in animals exposed to enriched environment.
  1. VPA valproic acid; KO knock out; FASD Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder