Chronic forced exercise inhibits stress-induced reinstatement of cocaine conditioned place preference

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Abstract

Stress increases the likelihood of cocaine relapse in humans and animals, even following a prolonged extinction/abstinence period. Exercise has previously been shown to reduce stress and decrease the likelihood of drug dependence, while also reducing cravings in humans and inhibiting relapse behaviors due to other risk factors in rodents. The present study evaluated the efficacy of exercise to reduce stress-induced relapse to cocaine in a rodent model. Young adult female Sprague Dawley rats were tested for cocaine conditioned place preference (CPP), then split into sedentary or exercise (six weeks of one-hour daily treadmill running, five days per week) groups. Following cocaine CPP, rats were tested for extinction behavior, and then tested for stress-primed reinstatement (15 min immobilization) following the six-week intervention period. Exercise inhibited stress-induced reinstatement of cocaine CPP despite increasing serum corticosterone levels following 15 min of immobilization, suggesting that chronic aerobic exercise intervention may result in adaptations of stress pathways. These findings suggest that exercise may help prevent stress-induced drug relapse, adding to a growing body of evidence supporting the utility of exercise to combat substance abuse.

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