Synergistic Effects of Enriched Environment and Task-Specific Reach Training on Poststroke Recovery of Motor Function
Background and Purpose—Reach training in concert with environmental enrichment provides functional benefits after experimental stroke in rats. The present study extended these findings by assessing whether intensive task-specific reach training or enrichment initiated alone would provide similar functional benefit. Additionally, we investigated whether the 70% recovery rule, or a combined model of initial poststroke impairment, cortical infarct volume, and rehabilitation intensity, could predict recovery in the single-pellet task, as previously found for the Montoya staircase.
Methods—Rats were trained on single-pellet reaching before middle cerebral artery occlusion via intracerebral injection of ET-1 (endothelin-1). There were 4 experimental groups: stroke+enrichment, stroke+reaching, stroke+enrichment+reaching, and sham+enrichment+reaching. Reaching rehabilitation utilized a modified Whishaw box that encouraged impaired forelimb reaching for 6 hours per day, 5 days per week, for 4 weeks. All treatment paradigms began 7 days after ischemia with weekly assessment on the single-pellet task during rehabilitation and again 4 weeks after rehabilitation concluded.
Results—Rats exposed to the combination of enrichment and reaching showed the greatest improvement in pellet retrieval and comparable performance to shams after 3 weeks of treatment, whereas those groups that received a monotherapy remained significantly impaired at all time points. Initial impairment alone did not significantly predict recovery in single-pellet as the 70% rule would suggest; however, a combined model of cortical infarct volume and rehabilitation intensity predicted change in pellet retrieval on the single-pellet task with the same accuracy as previously shown with the staircase, demonstrating the generalizability of this model across reaching tasks.
Conclusions—Task-specific reach training and environmental enrichment have synergistic effects in rats that persist long after rehabilitation ends, and this recovery is predicted by infarct volume and rehabilitation intensity.
- Received January 17, 2018.
- Revision received April 9, 2018.
- Accepted April 17, 2018.
- © 2018 American Heart Association, Inc.