Aerobic Exercise: Potential Rose in the Treatment and Prevention of Depression

Senior Capstone Experience by Joshua D. Samuels ’19

Submitted to the Department of Biology

Advised by Dr. Aaron Krochmal and Dr. Cindy Gibson

Description: “Depression, one of the most common mental illnesses, is primarily treated with antidepressants that often fail to meet the expectations of the depressed individual for numerous reasons. Due to this, many individuals do not receive adequate treatment or fail to seek medical treatment altogether. Aerobic exercise may serve as an alternative treatment method as it has been shown to reduce depression through multiple cellular pathways. Here, two rodent models for depression and custom rodent-exercise equipment were used to further investigate how aerobic exercise may reduce depressive behaviors and neurological indicators of depression. “

Abstract: “Depression is one of the most common mental illness with over 300 million people affected worldwide. Additionally, research suggests that many fail to seek or decline treatment for multiple reasons. Antidepressants, the most common form of treatment, are highly successful in managing depression, but are accompanied by multiple drawbacks that reduce treatment availability for some individuals. To that end, aerobic exercise may serve viable alternative treatment as it is known to reduce depressive-like behaviors and increase prefrontal cortex and hippocampal brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, properties similar to those of antidepressants. This study looked to further assess the benefits of aerobic exercise in reducing and preventing depression. Wistar rats, treated with chronic unpredictable stress (CUS), and Wistar-Kyoto rats were subject to aerobic exercise followed by open field (OFT) and forced swim (FST) behavioral testing. Tissue histology further examined the quantity of BDNF containing cells in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and hippocampal CA3 region. Aerobic exercise increased OFT exploratory activity and increased FST swimming across strains and increased BDNF containing cells in the CA3 of WKY exercise-treated rats. These findings support current literature suggesting the beneficial role of exercise in reducing depression. Therefore, exercise may provide an alternative to antidepressants for some individuals in the treatment of depression.”

Read Joshua’s SCE below:

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