Monday, 13 May 2013

Serotonin is crucial for exercise-induced neurogenesis

It's a well known fact that exercise induces stem cells in the hippocampus, an important brain area for memory and learning, to become neurons, a process known as neurogenesis  However, up until now, little was known about the deeper mechanisms involved in this process. Now, a new study on mice by researchers at the Max Delbrück Centre (MDC), Berlin-Buch reveals that serotonin plays a direct role in exercise-induced neurogenesis.

In this study, the researchers experimented on two groups of mice:
  • A normal, healthy group 
  • A genetically mutated group, lacking the ability to produce serotonin

Serotonin molecule
Serotonin molecule, Computer Generated Image

Normally, mice that exercise in running wheels exhibit increased neurogenesis in the hippocampus. However, the researchers discovered that exercise-induced neurogenesis was severely hindered in the serotonin-deficient mice.

“Serotonin is not necessarily required for baseline generation of new neurons in the adult brain, but is essential for exercise-induced hippocampal neurogenesis.” said the researchers

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one brain area to another. It is also known as the “molecule of happiness” and among other functions it regulates our mood. Hopefully, the findings could lead to new treatments for depression, said Dr. Klempin and Dr. Alenina, chief authors of the study.

“Our findings could potentially help to develop new approaches to prevent and treat depression as well as age-related decline in learning and memory” .

Klempin, F., Beis, D., Mosienko, V., Kempermann, G., Bader, M., & Alenina, N. (2013). Serotonin Is Required for Exercise-Induced Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis Journal of Neuroscience, 33 (19), 8270-8275 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5855-12.2013

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