Environmental enrichment (EE) is an experimental protocol based on a complex sensorimotor stimulation that dramatically affects brain development. While it is widely believed that the effects of EE result from the unique combination of different sensory and motor stimuli, it is not known whether and how cortico-cortical interactions are shaped by EE. Since the primary visual cortex (V1) is one of the best characterized targets of EE, we looked for direct cortico-cortical projections impinging on V1, and we identified a direct monosynaptic connection between motor cortex and V1 in the mouse brain. To measure the interactions between these areas under standard and EE rearing conditions, we used simultaneous recordings of local field potentials (LFPs) in awake, freely moving animals. LFP signals were analyzed by using different methods of linear and nonlinear analysis of time series (cross-correlation, mutual information, phase synchronization). We found that EE decreases the level of coupling between the electrical activities of the two cortical regions with respect to the control group. From a functional point of view, our results indicate, for the first time, that an enhanced sensorimotor experience impacts on the brain by affecting the functional crosstalk between different cortical areas.
Di Garbo, A., Mainardi, M., Chillemi, S., Maffei, L., Caleo, M., Environmental enrichment modulates cortico-cortical interactions in the mouse, <<PLOS ONE>>, 2011; 6 (9): e25285-e25285. [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025285] [http://hdl.handle.net/10807/57461]