Supplementary Material for: Early Environmental Enrichment Enhances Abnormal Brain Connectivity in a Rabbit Model of Intrauterine Growth Restriction
Introduction: The structural correspondence of neurodevelopmental impairments related to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) that persists later in life remains elusive. Moreover, early postnatal stimulation strategies have been proposed to mitigate these effects. Long-term brain connectivity abnormalities in an IUGR rabbit model and the effects of early postnatal environmental enrichment (EE) were explored. Materials and Methods: IUGR was surgically induced in one horn, whereas the contralateral one produced the controls. Postnatally, a subgroup of IUGR animals was housed in an enriched environment. Functional assessment was performed at the neonatal and long-term periods. At the long-term period, structural brain connectivity was evaluated by means of diffusion-weighted brain magnetic resonance imaging and by histological assessment focused on the hippocampus. Results: IUGR animals displayed poorer functional results and presented altered whole-brain networks and decreased median fractional anisotropy in the hippocampus. Reduced density of dendritic spines and perineuronal nets from hippocampal neurons were also observed. Of note, IUGR animals exposed to enriched environment presented an improvement in terms of both function and structure. Conclusions: IUGR is associated with altered brain connectivity at the global and cellular level. A strategy based on early EE has the potential to restore the neurodevelopmental consequences of IUGR.