Neurobehavioral effects of environmental enrichment and drug abuse vulnerability

Dustin J. Stairs, Michael T. Bardo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


Environmental enrichment during development produces a host of neurobehavioral effects in preclinical models. Early work demonstrated that enrichment enhances learning of a variety of behavioral tasks in rats and these changes are associated with neural changes in various cortical regions. In addition to promoting superior learning, more recent evidence suggests that environmental enrichment also has a protective effect in reducing drug abuse vulnerability. The current review describes some of the most important environment-dependent neural changes in reward-relevant brain structures and summarizes some of the key findings from the extensive literature showing how enrichment decreases the impact of drugs of abuse. Some critical neural mechanisms that may mediate the behavioral changes are postulated, along with some notes of caution about the limitations of the work cited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-382
Number of pages6
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors were supported by NIH grants P50 DA05312 and R01 DA12964.


  • Conditioned place preference
  • Corticosterone
  • Dopamine
  • Drug abuse
  • Drug self-administration
  • Environmental enrichment
  • Isolation
  • Locomotor activity
  • Mesocorticolimbic reward system
  • Novelty
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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