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Persistent neuroinflammation and disruptions in brain energy metabolism is commonly seen in traumatic brain injury (TBI). Because of the lack of success of most TBI interventions and the documented benefits of environmental enrichment (EE) in enhancing brain plasticity, here we focused our study on use of EE in regulating injury-induced neuroinflammation and disruptions in energy metabolism in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Adult male Wistar rats were used in the study and randomly assigned to receive either: mild TBI (mTBI) using the controlled cortical injury model or sham surgery. Following surgery, rats from each group were further randomized to either: EE housing or standard laboratory housing (CON). After 4 weeks of recovery, cognitive testing was performed using the non-matching-to-sample and delayed non-matching-to-sample tasks. After completion of behavioral testing, levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and TNF-α and the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 were measured. In addition, levels of AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase), phosphorylated AMPK and uMtCK (ubiquitous mitochondrial creatine kinase) were assessed as measures of brain energy homeostasis.


Our results showed that EE: (1) decreased the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and TNF-α and enhanced levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 after mTBI; (2) mitigated mTBI-induced cognitive impairment; and (3) attenuated mTBI-induced downregulation in pAMPK/AMPK ratio and uMtCK levels.


Our data demonstrated the potential of EE to modulate the persistent: (1) neuroinflammatory response seen following mTBI, and (2) persistent disturbance in brain energy homeostasis. It is possible that through the mechanism of modulating neuroinflammation, EE housing was able to restore the disruption in energy metabolism and enhanced functional recovery after mTBI.


Medical Neurobiology | Neurology | Nursing | Trauma