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Brain Res. 2009 Oct 19;1294:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2009.07.090. Epub 2009 Aug 6.

The effects of exercise on adolescent hippocampal neurogenesis in a rat model of binge alcohol exposure during the brain growth spurt.

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Psychology Department, University of Delaware, 108 Wolf Hall, Newark, DE 19716, USA.


Exposure to alcohol during the brain growth spurt results in impaired cognition and learning in adulthood. This impairment is accompanied by permanent structural changes in the hippocampal formation. Exercise improves performance on hippocampal-dependent learning and memory tasks and increases adult neurogenesis in the rat hippocampal dentate gyrus. The present study examined the effects of wheel running during adolescence on dentate gyrus cell proliferation and neurogenesis after postnatal binge-like alcohol exposure. On postnatal days (PD) 4-9, pups were either intubated with alcohol in a binge-like manner, sham intubated, or reared normally. On PD30-42, all animals were randomly assigned to two adolescent conditions: wheel running or inactive control. Animals were injected with BrdU every day between PD32 and PD42 and perfused on PD42 or PD72. In inactive control animals at both PD42 and PD72, cell proliferation and neurogenesis did not differ between postnatal treatment groups. Wheel running significantly increased the number of BrdU-labeled cells on PD42 in all three postnatal treatments. On PD72, only the normal controls showed significant increases in survival of newly generated cells resulting from the wheel running. These results indicate that adolescent wheel running can induce comparable increases in cell proliferation and neurogenesis in alcohol-exposed and control rats, but the long-term survival of those newly generated cells is impaired relative normal controls. Exercise may provide a means to stimulate neurogenesis, with implications for amelioration of hippocampal-dependent learning impairments associated with alcohol exposure. However, benefits requiring long-lasting survival of the newly generated cells will depend on identifying ways to promote survival.

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