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Behav Brain Res. 2008 Sep 1;192(1):42-60. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2008.03.014. Epub 2008 Mar 21.

The impact of voluntary exercise on mental health in rodents: a neuroplasticity perspective.

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Laboratory of Behavioural Neurobiology, ETH Zurich, Schorenstrasse 16, Schwerzenbach, Switzerland.


There is growing interest in the effects of voluntary wheel running activity on brain and behaviour in laboratory rodents and their implications to humans. Here, the major findings to date on the impact of exercise on mental health and diseases as well as the possible underlying neurobiological mechanisms are summarised. Several critical modulating factors on the neurobehavioural effects of wheel running exercise are emphasized and discussed--including the amount of wheel running, sex and strain/species differences. We also reported the outcome of an empirical investigation of the impact of wheel running exercise on the expression of both cognitive and non-cognitive phenotypes in a triple (3 x Tg-AD) transgenic mouse model for Alzheimer's disease (AD). Clear sex- and paradigm-specific effects of exercise on the genetically determined phenotypes are illustrated, including the efficacy of wheel running activity in attenuating the sex-specific cognitive deficits. It is concluded that the wheel running paradigm represents a unique environmental manipulation for the investigation of neurobehavioural plasticity in terms of gene-environment interactions relevant to the pathogenesis and therapies of certain neuropsychiatric conditions.

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