Caires, C. R. S., Bossolani-Martins, A. L. 2023. Which form of environmental enrichment is most effective in rodent models of autism? Behavioural Processes 211, 104915.

Environmental enrichment (EE) is known to produce experience-dependent changes in the brains and behaviors of rodents, and it has therefore been widely used to study neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism. Current studies show significant protocol variation, such as the presence of running wheels, number of cagemates, duration of enrichment, and the age of the animals at the beginning and end of the enrichment interventions. EE has been shown to have prominent positive effects in animal models of idiopathic and syndromic autism, but little is known about the ideal type of EE and the most efficient protocols for reversing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) behaviors modeled in rodents. This review presents evidence that social enrichment is the most effective way to rescue typical behaviors, and that variables such as onset, duration, and type of induction in the ASD model are important for EE success. Understanding which EE protocols are most beneficial for reversing ASD behaviors modeled in rodents opens up possibilities for the potential treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders characterized by behavioral deficits, such as autism.

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