Myelination of the corpus callosum in male and female rats following complex environment housing during adulthood

Julie A. Markham, Megan M. Herting, Agatha E. Luszpak, Janice M. Juraska, William T. Greenough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Myelination is an important process in brain development, and delays or abnormalities in this process have been associated with a number of conditions including autism, developmental delay, attention deficit disorder, and schizophrenia. Myelination can be sensitive to developmental experience; however, although the adult brain remains highly plastic, it is unknown whether myelination continues to be sensitive to experience during adulthood. Male and female rats were socially housed until four months of age, at which time they were moved into either a complex or "enriched" environment (EC) or an isolated condition (IC). Although the area of the splenium (posterior 20% of the callosum, which contains axons from visual cortical neurons) increased by about 10% following two months of EC housing, the area occupied by myelinated axons was not influenced by adult housing condition. Instead, it was the area occupied by glial cell processes and unmyelinated axons which significantly increased following EC housing. Neither the size nor the myelin content of the genu (anterior 15% of the callosum) was sensitive to manipulations of adult housing condition, but males had more area occupied by myelinated axons in both callosal regions. Finally, the inability of two months of complex environment housing during adulthood to impact the number of myelinated axons in the splenium was confirmed in a subset of animals using quantitative electron microscopy. We conclude that the sensitivity of myelination to experience is reduced in adulthood relative to development in both sexes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Sep 8 2009


  • EC
  • Electron microscopy
  • Enrichment
  • Genu
  • Sex difference
  • Splenium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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