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Acute, but not longer-term, exposure to environmental enrichment attenuates Pavlovian cue-evoked conditioned approach and Fos expression in the prefrontal cortex in mice.

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Margetts-Smith, Gabriella 
Macnaghten, Anastasia I 
Brebner, Leonie S 
Ziminski, Joseph J 
Sieburg, Meike C 


Exposure to environmental enrichment can modify the impact of motivationally relevant stimuli. For instance, previous studies in rats have found that even a brief, acute (~1 day), but not chronic, exposure to environmentally enriched (EE) housing attenuates instrumental lever pressing for sucrose-associated cues in a conditioned reinforcement setup. Moreover, acute EE reduces corticoaccumbens activity, as measured by decreases in expression of the neuronal activity marker "Fos." Currently, it is not known whether acute EE also reduces sucrose seeking and corticoaccumbens activity elicited by non-contingent or "forced" exposure to sucrose cues, which more closely resembles cue exposure encountered in daily life. We therefore measured the effects of acute/intermittent (1 day or 6 day of EE prior to test day) versus chronic (EE throughout conditioning lasting until test day) EE on the ability of a Pavlovian sucrose cue to elicit sucrose seeking (conditioned approach) and Fos expression in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and nucleus accumbens (NAc) in mice. One day, but not 6 day or chronic EE , reduced sucrose seeking and Fos in the deep layers of the dorsal mPFC. By contrast, 1 day, 6 day, and chronic EE all reduced Fos in the shallow layers of the OFC. None of the EE manipulations modulated NAc Fos expression. We reveal how EE reduces behavioral reactivity to sucrose cues by reducing activity in select prefrontal cortical brain areas. Our work further demonstrates the robustness of EE in its ability to modulate various forms of reward-seeking across species.


Funder: The University of Sussex Strategic Development Funds

Funder: Sussex Neuroscience 4‐year PhD programme


Fos, Pavlovian appetitive conditioning, cue reactivity, environmental enrichment, food seeking, prefrontal cortex, Animals, Conditioning, Operant, Cues, Mice, Nucleus Accumbens, Prefrontal Cortex, Rats, Reinforcement, Psychology, Reward

Journal Title

Eur J Neurosci

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Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/M009017/1)