VEGF reverts the cognitive impairment induced by a focal traumatic brain injury during the development of rats raised under environmental enrichment

The role of VEGF in the nervous system is extensive; apart from its angiogenic effect, VEGF has been described as a neuroprotective, neurotrophic and neurogenic molecule. Similar effects have been described for enriched environment (EE). Moreover, both VEGF and EE have been related to improved spatial memory. Our aim was to investigate the neurovascular and cognitive effects of intracerebrally-administered VEGF and enriched environment during the critical period of the rat visual cortex development. Results showed that VEGF infusion as well as enriched environment induced neurovascular and cognitive effects in developing rats. VEGF administration produced an enhancement during the learning process of enriched animals and acted as an angiogenic factor both in primary visual cortex (V1) and dentate gyrus (DG) in order to counteract minipump implantation-induced damage. This fact revealed that DG vascularization is critical for normal learning. In contrast to this enriched environment acted on the neuronal density of the DG and V1 cortex, and results showed learning enhancement only in non-operated rats. In conclusion, VEGF administration only has effects if damage is observed due to injury. Once control values were reached, no further effects appeared, showing a ceiling effect. Our results strongly support that in addition to neurogenesis, vascularization plays a pivotal role for learning and memory.

SOURCE:  Behavioural Brain Research

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