Environmental enrichment ameliorates perinatal brain injury and promotes functional white matter recovery

Thomas A. Forbes, Evan Z. Goldstein, Jeffrey L. Dupree, Beata Jablonska, Joseph Scafidi, Katrina L. Adams, Yuka Imamura, Kazue Hashimoto-Torii, Vittorio Gallo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Hypoxic damage to the developing brain due to preterm birth causes many anatomical changes, including damage to the periventricular white matter. This results in the loss of glial cells, significant disruptions in myelination, and thereby cognitive and behavioral disabilities seen throughout life. Encouragingly, these neurological morbidities can be improved by environmental factors; however, the underlying cellular mechanisms remain unknown. We found that early and continuous environmental enrichment selectively enhances endogenous repair of the developing white matter by promoting oligodendroglial maturation, myelination, and functional recovery after perinatal brain injury. These effects require increased exposure to socialization, physical activity, and cognitive enhancement of surroundings—a complete enriched environment. Using RNA-sequencing, we identified oligodendroglial-specific responses to hypoxic brain injury, and uncovered molecular mechanisms involved in enrichment-induced recovery. Together, these results indicate that myelin plasticity induced by modulation of the neonatal environment can be targeted as a therapeutic strategy for preterm birth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number964
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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