Environmental enrichment selectively increases glutamatergic responses in layer II/III of the auditory cortex of the rat

J. A. Nichols, V. P. Jakkamsetti, H. Salgado, L. Dinh, M. P. Kilgard, M. Atzori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Prolonged exposure to environmental enrichment (EE) induces behavioral adaptation accompanied by detectable morphological and physiological changes. Auditory EE is associated with an increased auditory evoked potential (AEP) and increased auditory gating in the primary auditory cortex. We sought physiological correlates to such changes by comparing synaptic currents in control vs. EE-raised rats, in a primary auditory cortex (AI) slice preparation. Pharmacologically isolated glutamatergic or GABAA-receptor-mediated currents were measured using perforated patch whole-cell recordings. Glutamatergic AMPA receptor (AMPAR)-mediated excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) displayed a large amplitude increase (64±11% in EE vs. control) accompanied by a rise-time decrease (-29±6% in EE vs. control) and decrease in pair pulse ratio in layer II/III but not in layer V. Changes in glutamatergic signaling were not associated with changes in the ratio between N-methyl-d aspartate-receptor (NMDAR)-mediated vs. AMPAR-mediated components, in amplitude or pair pulse ratio of GABAergic transmission, or in passive neuronal properties. A realistic computational model was used for integrating in vivo and in vitro results, and for determining how EE synapses correct for phase error of the inputs. We found that EE not only increases the mean firing frequency of the responses, but also improves the robustness of auditory processing by decreasing the dependence of the output firing on the phase difference of the input signals. We conclude that behavioral and electrophysiological differences detected in vivo in rats exposed to an auditory EE are accompanied and possibly caused by selective changes in cortical excitatory transmission. Our data suggest that auditory EE selectively enhances excitatory glutamatergic synaptic transmission in layer II/III without greatly altering inhibitory GABAergic transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)832-840
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 30 2007


  • AI
  • behavior
  • excitation/inhibition balance
  • neuronal modeling
  • patch-clamp
  • perforated patch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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