Influence of Acute and Chronic Exercise on Markers of Hippocampal Plasticity
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Exercise and physical activity are lifestyle behaviors associated with enriched mental health. Understanding the mechanisms by which exercise and physical activity improve mental health may provide insight for novel therapeutic approaches for numerous mental health disorders. This dissertation reports the findings from three studies investigating the influence of acute and chronic exercise on behavioral and mechanistic markers of hippocampal plasticity and delves into the potential role of noradrenergic signaling in the hippocampal adaptations with exercise. The first study assessed the effects of long-term voluntary wheel running on hippocampal expression of plasticity-associated genes and proteins in adult male and female C57BL/6J mice, highlighting sex differences in the adaptations to long-term voluntary wheel running. The second study examined the influence of acute exercise intensity on AMPA receptor phosphorylation, a mechanism essential for hippocampal plasticity, plasticity- associated gene expression, spatial learning and memory, and anxiety-like behavior. The unexpected finding that acute exercise increased anxiety-like
behavior encouraged investigation into the role of central noradrenergic signaling in acute exercise-induced anxiety. The third study determined how previous exposure to voluntary wheel running modulates the response to an acute bout of exercise, focusing primarily on transcription of the important plasticity-promoting gene, brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Using a pharmacological approach to compromise the locus coeruleus noradrenergic system, a system that is implicated in age-related mental health disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease, the third study also investigated the influence and interaction of the noradrenergic system and acute exercise on expression of multiple brain-derived neurotrophic factor transcripts. Together, this dissertation reports the findings from a series of experiments that explored similarities, differences, and interactions between the effects of acute and chronic exercise on markers of hippocampal plasticity and behavior. Further, this work provides insight into the role of the noradrenergic system in exercise-induced hippocampal plasticity.