In the hippocampus, learning and memory are likely mediated by synaptic plasticity, known as long-term potentiation (LTP). While chronic intermittent stress is negatively correlated, and exercise positively correlated to LTP induction, we examined whether exercise could mitigate the negative consequences of stress on LTP when co-occurring with stress. Mice were divided into four groups: sedentary no stress, exercise no stress, exercise with stress, and sedentary with stress. Field electrophysiology performed on brain slices confirmed that stress alone significantly reduced dorsal CA1 hippocampal LTP and exercise alone increased LTP compared to controls. Exercise with stress mice exhibited LTP that was significantly greater than mice undergoing stress alone but were not different from sedentary no stress mice. An ELISA illustrated increased corticosterone in stressed mice compared to no stress mice. In addition, a radial arm maze was used to examine behavioral changes in memory during 6 weeks of stress and/or exercise. Exercised mice groups made fewer errors in week 2. RT-qPCR was used to examine the mRNA expression of components in the stress and exercise pathways in the four groups. Significant changes in the expression of the following targets were detected: BDNF, TrkB, glucocorticoid, mineralocorticoid, and dopamine 5 receptors. Collectively, exercise can mitigate some of the negative impact stress has on hippocampal function when both occur concurrently.
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The study, newly published in the journal of Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, finds that running mitigates the negative impacts chronic stress has on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.