Environmental enrichment promotes neural plasticity and cognitive ability in fish

Anne Gro Vea Salvanes, Olav Moberg, Lars O.E. Ebbesson, Tom Ole Nilsen, Knut Helge Jensen, Victoria A. Braithwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

189 Scopus citations


Different kinds of experience during early life can play a significant role in the development of an animal's behavioural phenotype. In natural contexts, this influences behaviours from anti-predator responses to navigation abilities. By contrast, for animals reared in captive environments, the homogeneous nature of their experience tends to reduce behavioural flexibility. Studies with cage-reared rodents indicate that captivity often compromises neural development and neural plasticity. Such neural and behavioural deficits can be problematic if captive-bred animals are being reared with the intention of releasing them as part of a conservation strategy. Over the last decade, there has been growing interest in the use of environmental enrichment to promote behavioural flexibility in animals that are bred for release. Here, we describe the positive effects of environmental enrichment on neural plasticity and cognition in juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Exposing fish to enriched conditions upregulated the forebrain expression of NeuroD1 mRNA and improved learning ability assessed in a spatial task. The addition of enrichment to the captive environment thus promotes neural and behavioural changes that are likely to promote behavioural flexibility and improve post-release survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20131331
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1767
StatePublished - Sep 22 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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