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Hippocampus. 2009 Oct;19(10):913-27. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20621.

Prolonged voluntary wheel-running stimulates neural precursors in the hippocampus and forebrain of adult CD1 mice.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada.


Voluntary wheel-running induces a rapid increase in proliferation and neurogenesis by neural precursors present in the adult rodent hippocampus. In contrast, the responses of hippocampal and other central nervous system neural precursors following longer periods of voluntary physical activity are unclear and are an issue of potential relevance to physical rehabilitation programs. We investigated the effects of a prolonged, 6-week voluntary wheel-running paradigm on neural precursors of the CD1 mouse hippocampus and forebrain. Examination of the hippocampus following 6 weeks of running revealed two to three times as many newly born neurons and 60% more proliferating cells when compared with standard-housed control mice. Among running mice, the number of newly born neurons correlated with the total running distance. To establish the effects of wheel-running on hippocampal precursors dividing during later stages of the prolonged running regime, BrdU was administered after 3 weeks of running and the BrdU-retaining cells were analyzed 18 days later. Quantifications revealed that the effects of wheel-running were maintained in late-stage proliferating cells, as running mice had two to three times as many BrdU-retaining cells within the hippocampal dentate gyrus, and these yielded greater proportions of both mature neurons and proliferative cells. The effects of prolonged wheel-running were also detected beyond the hippocampus. Unlike short-term wheel-running, prolonged wheel-running was associated with higher numbers of proliferating cells within the ventral forebrain subventricular region, a site of age-associated decreases in neural precursor proliferation and neurogenesis. Collectively, these findings indicate that (i) prolonged voluntary wheel-running maintains an increased level of hippocampal neurogenesis whose magnitude is linked to total running performance, and (ii) that it influences multiple neural precursor populations of the adult mouse brain.

Copyright 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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