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Protective neuroendocrine effects of environmental enrichment and voluntary exercise against social isolation: evidence for mediation by limbic structures.

Authors
  • Watanasriyakul, W Tang1
  • Normann, Marigny C1
  • Akinbo, Oreoluwa I1
  • Colburn, William1
  • Dagner, Ashley1
  • Grippo, Angela J1
  • 1 a Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University , DeKalb , IL , USA.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Stress (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2019
Volume
22
Issue
5
Pages
603–618
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1080/10253890.2019.1617691
PMID: 31134849
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Previous research indicates that loneliness and social isolation may contribute to behavioral disorders and neurobiological dysfunction. Environmental enrichment (EE), including both cognitive and physical stimulation, may prevent some behavioral, endocrine, and cardiovascular consequences of social isolation; however, specific neural mechanisms for these benefits are still unclear. Therefore, this study examined potential neuroendocrine protective effects of both EE and exercise. Adult female prairie voles were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions: paired control, social isolation/sedentary, social isolation/EE, and social isolation/voluntary exercise. All isolated animals were housed individually for 8 weeks, while paired animals were housed with their respective sibling for 8 weeks. Animals in the EE and voluntary exercise conditions received EE items (including a running wheel) and a running wheel only, respectively, at week 4 of the isolation period. At the end of the experiment, plasma and brains were collected from all animals for corticosterone and FosB and delta FosB (FosB/ΔFosB) - immunoreactivity in stress-related brain regions. Overall, social isolation increased neuroendocrine stress responses, as reflected by the elevation of corticosterone levels and increased FosB/ΔFosB-immunoreactivity in the basolateral amygdala (BLA) compared to paired animals; EE and voluntary exercise attenuated these increases. EE and exercise also increased FosB/ΔFosB-immunoreactivity in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) compared to other conditions. Limbic structures statistically mediated hypothalamic immunoreactivity in EE and exercise animals. This research has translational value for socially isolated individuals by informing our understanding of neural mechanisms underlying responses to social stressors. Highlights Prolonged social isolation increased basal corticosterone levels and basolateral amygdala immunoreactivity. Environmental enrichment and exercise buffered corticosterone elevations and basolateral amygdala hyperactivity. Protective effects of environmental enrichment and exercise may be mediated by medial prefrontal cortex and limbic structures.

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