Summary: Researchers report, in animal models of addiction, daily aerobic exercise alters the mesolimbic dopamine pathway in the brain.
Source: University at Buffalo.
New research by the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions has identified a key mechanism in how aerobic exercise can help impact the brain in ways that may support treatment — and even prevention strategies — for addiction.
Also known as “cardio,” aerobic exercise is brisk exercise that increases heart rate, breathing and circulation of oxygen through the blood, and is associated with decreasing many negative health issues, including diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. It also is linked to numerous mental health benefits, such as reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
“Several studies have shown that, in addition to these benefits, aerobic exercise has been effective in preventing the start, increase and relapse of substance use in a number of categories, including alcohol, nicotine, stimulants and opioids,” says Panayotis (Peter) Thanos, PhD, RIA senior research scientist and senior author of the study. “Our work seeks to help identify the underlying neurobiological mechanisms driving these changes.”
Using animal models, Thanos and his team of researchers found that daily aerobic exercise altered the mesolimbic dopamine pathway in the brain. Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter associated with substance use disorders, playing an important role in reward, motivation and learning.
“Current work is looking at whether exercise can normalize dopamine signaling that has been changed by chronic drug use, as this may provide key support of how exercise could serve as a treatment strategy for substance abuse,” he says.
“Further studies that focus on people with substance use disorders should help researchers develop new methods to integrate exercise into treatment regimens that may help prevent relapses,” Thanos adds.
Funding: The current study was funded by the NY Research Foundation and appears in the online edition of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. The article authors include Lisa S. Robison, PhD, a former graduate student of Thanos, of the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics, Albany Medical College, Sabrina Swenson, postbaccalaureate fellow, John Hamilton, graduate student, and Thanos, of the Behavioral Neuropharmacology and Neuroimaging Laboratory on Addictions (BNNLA), Research Institute on Addictions and Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Source: Cathy Wilde – University at Buffalo
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Original Research: Abstract for “Exercise Reduces Dopamine D1R and Increases D2R in Rats: Implications for Addiction” by Robison, Lisa S.; Swenson, Sabrina; Hamilton, John; and Thanos, Panayotis K. in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Published April 2 2018.
Exercise Reduces Dopamine D1R and Increases D2R in Rats: Implications for Addiction
Introduction Exercise has been shown to be effective for preventing and treating substance abuse in both clinical and preclinical studies. Less is known, however, regarding the underlying neurobiological mechanisms driving these changes in drug-seeking behavior. One possibility is that exercise may alter the mesolimbic dopamine pathway in such a way that makes drugs of abuse less salient and/or rewarding.
Methods To examine possible exercise-induced changes in dopamine signaling, male and female Lewis rats were split into exercise and sedentary groups at 8 weeks of age. Exercise rats were run on a treadmill at 10m/min, five days per week, for six weeks, while sedentary rats remained in their home cage. Rats were euthanized following the 6 weeks of treatment, and their brains were used for in vitro autoradiography using [3H]SCH 23,390, [3H]Spiperone, and [3H]WIN55,428 ligands to quantify D1R-like, D2R-like, and dopamine transporter (DAT) binding, respectively.
Results Exercised rats had 18% and 21% lower D1R-like binding levels compared to sedentary rats within the olfactory tubercle (OT) and nucleus accumbens shell (AcbS), respectively. In addition, male and female exercise rats showed greater D2R-like binding levels within the dorsomedial (DM CPu; 30%), ventrolateral (VL CPu; 24%), and ventromedial (VM CPu; 27%) caudate putamen, as well as the OT (19%). Greater D2R-like binding in the nucleus accumbens core (AcbC; 24%) and shell (AcbS; 25%) of exercised rats compared to sedentary rats approached significance. No effects were found for DAT binding.
Conclusions These findings support the hypothesis that aerobic exercise results in changes in the mesolimbic pathway that could mediate exercise-induced attenuation of drug-seeking behavior.