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J Physiol. 2011 Jul 1;589(Pt 13):3383-93. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2010.203570. Epub 2011 Apr 26.

Brain glycogen decreases during prolonged exercise.

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Laboratory of Exercise Biochemistry and Neuroendocrinology, University of Tsukuba Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

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  • J Physiol. 2011 Aug 15;589(Pt 16):4079.


Brain glycogen could be a critical energy source for brain activity when the glucose supply from the blood is inadequate (hypoglycaemia). Although untested, it is hypothesized that during prolonged exhaustive exercise that induces hypoglycaemia and muscular glycogen depletion, the resultant hypoglycaemia may cause a decrease in brain glycogen. Here,we tested this hypothesis and also investigated the possible involvement of brain monoamines with the reduced levels of brain glycogen. For this purpose,we exercised male Wistar rats on a treadmill for different durations (30-120 min) at moderate intensity (20 m min⁻¹) and measured their brain glycogen levels using high-power microwave irradiation (10 kW). At the end of 30 and 60 min of running, the brain glycogen levels remained unchanged from resting levels, but liver and muscle glycogen decreased. After 120 min of running, the glycogen levels decreased significantly by ∼37-60% in five discrete brain loci (the cerebellum 60%, cortex 48%, hippocampus 43%, brainstem 37% and hypothalamus 34%) compared to those of the sedentary control. The brain glycogen levels in all five regions after running were positively correlated with the respective blood and brain glucose levels. Further, in the cortex, the levels of methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG) and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), potential involved in degradation of the brain glycogen, increased during prolonged exercise and negatively correlated with the glycogen levels. These results support the hypothesis that brain glycogen could decrease with prolonged exhaustive exercise. Increased monoamines together with hypoglycaemia should be associated with the development of decreased brain glycogen, suggesting a new clue towards the understanding of central fatigue during prolonged exercise.

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