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Brain Res Bull. 2000 Sep 1;53(1):77-85.

Hypothalamus, hypertension, and exercise.

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Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


The hypothalamus is a well-known autonomic regulatory region of the brain involved in integrating several behaviors as well as cardiorespiratory activity. Our laboratory has shown that the caudal hypothalamus modulates the cardiorespiratory responses associated with exercise. In addition, other findings from this laboratory and others have implicated alterations in this same brain region in spontaneously hypertensive rats as contributing factors of the elevated levels of arterial pressure in hypertension. Several studies have revealed a gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABAergic) deficiency in the caudal hypothalamus of spontaneously hypertensive rats that contributes to the tonic disinhibition and overactivity of this pressor region. Because chronic exercise is able to increase cardiovascular health in the hypertensive rat, we hypothesized that exercise-induced caudal hypothalamic plasticity partially underlies the beneficial effects of physical activity. In this review we discuss initial findings from this lab that support this hypothesis. Our experiments demonstrate that chronic exercise alters gene expression and neuronal activity in the caudal hypothalamus of the spontaneously hypertensive rat. These findings describe a potential mechanism by which chronic exercise lowers blood pressure in the hypertensive individual.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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