Regular treadmill exercise prevents sleep deprivation-induced disruption of synaptic plasticity and associated signaling cascade in the dentate gyrus☆

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Abstract

Study objectives

Evidence suggests that regular exercise can protect against learning and memory impairment in the presence of insults such as sleep deprivation. The dentate gyrus (DG) area of the hippocampus is a key staging area for learning and memory processes and is particularly sensitive to sleep deprivation. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of regular exercise on early-phase long-term potentiation (E-LTP) and its signaling cascade in the presence of sleep deprivation.

Experimental design

Rats were exposed to 4 weeks of regular treadmill exercise then subsequently sleep-deprived for 24 h using the modified multiple platform model before experimentation. We tested the effects of exercise and/or sleep deprivation using electrophysiological recording in the DG to measure synaptic plasticity; and Western blot analysis to quantify the levels of key signaling proteins related to E-LTP.

Measurements and results

Regular exercise prevented the sleep deprivation-induced impairment of E-LTP in the DG area as well as the sleep deprivation-associated decrease in basal protein levels of phosphorylated and total α calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (P/total-CaMKII) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). High frequency stimulation (HFS) to the DG area was used to model learning stimuli and increased the P-CaMKII and BDNF levels in normal animals: yet failed to change these levels in sleep-deprived rats. However, HFS in control and sleep-deprived rats increased the levels of the phosphatase calcineurin. In contrast, exercise increased BDNF and P-CaMKII levels in exercised/sleep-deprived rats.

Conclusions

Regular exercise appears to exert a protective effect against sleep deprivation-induced spatial memory impairment by inducing hippocampal signaling cascades that positively modulate basal and stimulated levels of key effectors such as P-CaMKII and BDNF, while attenuating increases in the protein phosphatase calcineurin.

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