Environmental enrichment decreases chronic psychosocial stress-impaired extinction and reinstatement of ethanol conditioned place preference in C57BL/6 male mice

  • Amine BahiEmail author
  • Jean-Luc Dreyer
Original Investigation



During the last few decades, alcohol use disorders (AUD) have reached an epidemic prevalence, yet social influences on alcoholism have not been fully addressed. Several factors can modulate alcohol intake. On one hand, stress can reinforce ethanol-induced behaviors and be an important component in AUD and alcoholism. On the other hand, environmental enrichment (EE) has a neuroprotective role and prevents the development of excessive ethanol intake in rodents. However, studies showing the role of EE in chronic psychosocial stress-impaired ethanol-conditioned rewards are nonexistent.


The purpose of the current study is to explore the potential protective role of EE on extinction and reinstatement of ethanol-conditioned place preference (EtOH-CPP) following chronic psychosocial stress.


In the first experiment and after the EtOH-CPP test, the mice were subjected to 15 days of chronic stress, then housed in a standard (SE) or enriched environment (EE) while EtOH-CPP extinction was achieved by repeated exposure to the CPP chambers without ethanol injection. In the second experiment and after the EtOH-CPP test, extinction was achieved as described above. Mice were then exposed to chronic stress for 2 weeks before being housed in a SE or EE. EtOH-CPP reinstatement was induced by a single exposure to the conditioning chambers.


As expected, stress exposure increased anxiety-like behavior and reduced weight gain. More importantly, we found that EE significantly shortened chronic stress-delayed extinction and decreased the reinstatement of EtOH-CPP.


These results support the hypothesis that EE reduces the impact of alcohol-associated environmental stimuli, and hence it may be a general intervention for reducing cue-elicited craving and relapse in humans.


Anxiety Chronic psychosocial stress Conditioned place preference EPM Environment enrichment Ethanol Extinction Open field Reinstatement Relapse 



Conditioned place preference


Chronic subordinate colony


Enriched environment


Elevated plus maze




Open field


Standard environment


Single housed colony



The authors would like to acknowledge Mr. Mohamed Shafiullah for his technical assistance and Dr. Mahmoud Hag Ali from the Central Animal Facility for his advice on animal care and welfare. The authors thank the three anonymous reviewers whose comments and suggestions have greatly improved this manuscript.

Funding information

AB was supported by grants from the United Arab Emirates University (No. NP/13/05) and the National Research foundation (No. 31M082). The funders had no further role in study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the paper for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of MedicineAjman UniversityAjmanUAE
  2. 2.Department of Anatomy, College of Medicine and Health SciencesUnited Arab Emirates UniversityAl AinUAE
  3. 3.Division of Biochemistry, Department of MedicineUniversity of FribourgFribourgSwitzerland

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