Behavioural brain research

Voluntary exercise offers anxiolytic potential and amplifies galanin gene expression in the locus coeruleus of the rat.

PMID 22580167


Although exercise improves anxiety in humans, it is controversial whether exercise is anxiolytic in rodents. We tested the hypothesis that stress influences the effect of exercise on anxiety-like and defensive behaviors. To explore the neurobiological mechanisms of exercise, we also examined whether exercise alters gene expression for the stress-related peptide galanin. Rats were housed in the presence or absence of a running wheel for 21 d. A subset of these rats were (1) not injected or received a single high, dose of the β-carboline FG7142 (inverse agonist at the benzodiazepine receptor site) immediately prior to testing or (2) were injected repeatedly with vehicle or FG7142 during the last 10d of exercise. On day 22, anxiety-like and defensive behaviors were measured in the elevated plus maze, shock probe defensive burying, and defensive withdrawal tests. Locus coeruleus prepro-galanin mRNA was measured by in situ hybridization. Exercise and sedentary rats that were not injected exhibited similar behavior in all tests, whereas FG7142 injected immediately prior to the test battery produced intense avoidance and immobility consistent with an anxiety-like response. However, exercise produced anxiolytic-like and active defensive behaviors in the test battery relative to the sedentary condition in rats injected repeatedly with vehicle or FG7142. Exercise also increased prepro-galanin mRNA in the locus coeruleus relative to sedentary controls. These data suggest that the emergence of enhanced adaptive behavior after chronic voluntary exercise is influenced by stress. Our data support a role for galanin in the beneficial consequences of wheel running.

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β-Carboline-3-carboxylic acid N-methylamide