Neuroplastic adaptations to exercise: Neuronal remodeling in cardiorespiratory and locomotor areas

Amanda J. Nelson, Janice M. Juraska, Timothy I. Musch, Gary A. Iwamoto

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44 Scopus citations


Neuronal activity has been shown to be attenuated in cardiorespiratory and locomotor centers of the brain in response to a single bout of exercise in trained (TR) vs. untrained (UN) animals, but the mechanisms remain obscure. Based on this finding, dendritic branching patterns of seven brain areas associated with cardiorespiratory and locomotor activity were examined in TR and UN animals. Twenty-eight male Sprague-Dawley rats were kept in individual cages and divided into TR and UN. TR were provided with a running wheel and exercised spontaneously. After 85 or 120 days, exercise training indexes were obtained, including maximal oxygen consumption, percent body fat, resting heart rate, and heart weight-to-body weight ratios. The brain was removed and processed according to a modified Golgi-Cox procedure. Impregnated neurons from seven brain areas were examined in coronal sections: the periaqueductal gray, posterior hypothalamic area, nucleus of the tractus solitarius, rostral ventrolateral medulla, cuneiform nucleus, nucleus cuneatus, and cerebral cortex. Neurons were traced using a camera lucida technique and analyzed using the Sholl analysis of dendritic branching. t-Tests were conducted to compare the mean number of intersections per neuron by grouping inner rings and outer rings and also comparing the total number of intersections per animal. There were significant differences between groups in the posterior hypothalamic area, periaqueductal gray, cuneiform nucleus, and nucleus of the tractus solitarius in the inner rings, outer rings, and the total number of intersections per animal. Our results show that dendritic fields of neurons in important cardiorespiratory and locomotor centers of the brain are attenuated in TR animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2312-2322
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005



  • Dendritic branching
  • Exercise training indexes
  • Golgi staining
  • Locomotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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