We examined the effects of chronic activity wheel running on brain monoamines and latency to escape foot shock after prior exposure to uncontrollable, inescapable foot shock. Individually housed young (~50 day) female Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned to standard cages (sedentary) or cages with activity wheels. After 9-12 weeks, animals were matched in pairs on body mass. Activity wheel animals were also matched on running distance. An animal from each matched pair was randomly assigned to controllable or uncontrollable inescapable foot shock followed the next day by a foot shock escape test in a shuttle box. Brain concentrations of norepinephrine (NE), dopamine (DA), dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), 5- hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), and 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid (5-HIAA) were assayed in the locus coeruleus (LC), dorsal raphe (DR), central amygdala (AC), hippocampus (CA1), arcuate nucleus, paraventricular nucleus (PVN), and midbrain central gray. After prior exposure to uncontrollable foot shock, escape latency was reduced by 34% for wheel runners compared with sedentary controls. The shortened escape latency for wheel runners was associated with 61% higher NE concentrations in LC and 44% higher NE concentrations in DR compared with sedentary controls. Sedentary controls, compared with wheel runners, had 31% higher 5-HIAA concentrations in CA1 and 30% higher 5-HIAA concentrations in AC after uncontrollable foot shock and had 28% higher 5-HT and 33% higher 5-HIAA concentrations in AC averaged across both foot shock conditions. There were no group differences in monoamines in the central gray or in plasma prolactin or ACTH concentrations, despite 52% higher DA concentrations in the arcuate nucleus after uncontrollable foot shock and 50% higher DOPAC/DA and 17% higher 5-HIAA/5-HT concentrations in the PVN averaged across both foot shock conditions for sedentary compared with activity wheel animals. The present results extend understanding of the escape-deficit by indicating an attenuating role for circadian physical activity. The altered monoamine levels suggest brain regions for more direct probes of neural activity after wheel running and foot shock.
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