Chronic Environmental Enrichment (EE) has been shown to prevent the relapse to addictive behaviours, such as drug-taking and -seeking. Recently, acute EE was shown to reduce cue-induced sucrose-seeking, but its effects on contextual (Cx)-induced sucrose-seeking is still unknown. Here we report the effects of brief EE exposure on Cx-induced sucrose-seeking with and without prior Cx-memory reactivation.
Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were trained to sucrose self-administration associated to a specific conditioning Cx (CxA), followed by a 7-day extinction in a different Cx (CxB). Afterwards, rats were exposed for 22 h to EE, and 1 h later to either i) Cx-induced sucrose-seeking (1 h, renewal without Cx-memory reactivation), ii) or two different Cx-memory reactivations: short (2-min) and long (15-min) CxA-retrieval session (Cx-Ret). In Cx-Ret experiments, CxA-induced sucrose-seeking test (1 h) was done after a subsequent 3-day extinction phase. The assessment of molecular markers of memory reactivation/reconsolidation, Zif-268 and rpS6P, was performed 2 h after Cx-Ret.
Brief EE exposure enhanced Cx-induced sucrose-seeking without and with short but not long Cx-retrieval. Moreover, EE impaired discriminative responding at test prior to long, whereas improved it with or without short Cx-retrieval. Different changes in Zif-268 and rpS6P expression induced by short vs. long Cx-Ret were correlated to behavioural data, suggesting the occurrence of different memory processes affected by EE.
Our data show that brief EE exposure may differently affect subsequent appetitive relapse depending on the modality of re-exposure to conditioned context. This finding suggests caution and further studies to understand the proper conditions for the use of EE against appetitive and addiction disorders.