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PLoS Curr. 2010 Dec 7;2:RRN1201. doi: 10.1371/currents.RRN1201.

Exercise is not beneficial and may accelerate symptom onset in a mouse model of Huntington's disease.

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  • 1NIA; NIA/NIH, Baltimore,Maryland; National Institute of Aging, National Institute of Health and Neuroplasticity and Behavior Unit NIA/NIH.


Exercise benefits both general health and brain function in rodents and humans. However, it is less clear whether physical activity prevents or ameliorates neurodegenerative diseases. The aim of the present study was to determine whether voluntary wheel running can delay the onset or reduce the severity of Huntington's disease (HD) in a mouse model. To investigate whether running may delay HD symptoms lifespan, disease onset, locomotor activity, glucose levels, weight, striatal volume, inclusions, cognition and hippocampal neurogenesis were studied in male N171-82Q transgenic HD mice. Running started in pre-symptomatic (44±1 days old) male HD mice, did not improve function and appeared to accelerate disease onset. In particular, HD runners had an earlier onset of disease symptoms (shaking, hunched back and poor grooming), reduced striatal volume and impaired motor behavior, including a shorter latency to fall from the rotarod compared to sedentary controls. Furthermore, weight loss, reduced lifespan, hyperglycemia, Morris water maze learning deficits, diminished hippocampal neurogenesis, deficits in immature neuronal morphology, intranuclear inclusions and decreased dentate gyrus volume were refractory to physical activity. Taken together our research indicates that exercise is not beneficial, and may be detrimental to a vulnerable nervous system.

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