Research Topic

Neurobiology of Exercise: Regulating Factors, Individual Differences and Therapeutic Approaches

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Physical activities can have intrinsic motivational or reinforcing properties. The choice to engage in voluntary physical activity is undertaken in relation to the selection of other less effortful alternatives (i.e., sedentary behaviors). One of the neural systems involved in the regulation of behavioral ...

Physical activities can have intrinsic motivational or reinforcing properties. The choice to engage in voluntary physical activity is undertaken in relation to the selection of other less effortful alternatives (i.e., sedentary behaviors). One of the neural systems involved in the regulation of behavioral activation and effort-related processes in motivated behaviors is the mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system. Impairing mesolimbic DA function leads to psychomotor slowing, fatigue and anergia, symptoms that appear in maladaptive and pathological behaviors such as stimulant withdrawal, Parkinsonism, and aspects of depression. Moreover, this type of characteristic is responsible in non-pathological lethargy and amotivation that lead many people to choose a sedentary lifestyle. There is evidence showing that physical activity and exercise are essential for improving physical and mental health and neurological function. For instance, in pathologies such as depression, most professionals recommend regular physical exercise to patients. Surprisingly, knowledge of the brain mechanisms involved in this improvement is scarce. The present Topic will include preclinical and clinical studies assessing the neuroprotective effects of exercise, as well as the effects of pharmacological manipulations that can improve selection of physical activities in rodent models involving both healthy and pathological conditions, as well as human samples. In addition, it is important to evaluate environmental, genetic, and epigenetic factors that can help to explain individual differences that make some subjects more likely to engage in voluntary exercise than others. Studies focused on developing animal models to assess selection of activities that require vigor and effort vs. more sedentary reinforcers, are essential for the study of these brain mechanisms.

The current Research Topic focuses on preclinical and translational articles, including basic science and Review papers, about the role of physical exercise in:
• Decision making
• Individual differences in effort and behavioral activation
• Sedentary lifestyle and vigorexia
• Binge eating and obesity
• Drug abuse
• Depression, Parkinsonism, etc
• Neuroprotection
• Therapeutic effects of different types of exercise


Keywords: Running wheel, Dopamine, Animal models, Human performance, Sedentarism


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