That was the conclusion of a trial carried out by researchers from the University of São Paulo, Brazil and the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria. Their results were published recently in the peer-reviewed journalApplied Animal Behaviour Science.
Assessing the effects of environmental enrichment
The goal of the research team was to assess the effects of environmental enrichment during gestation on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and behaviour of offspring. Wikipedia informs that the HPA is a major neuroendocrine system which controls reactions to stress and regulates many body processes, including digestion, the immune system, mood and emotions, sexuality, and energy storage and expenditure.
In order to test the hypothesis, the research team kept 18 sows in straw during the final 3rd part of gestation (from 90 to 114 days) and 18 sows without straw (control). On the piglets born (1 pair per sow), the researchers performed an analysis of behaviour, cortisol levels in saliva and performed fear tests to assess resilience, emotional reactivity, responsiveness to stressors, and cognition.