Increased open field locomotion and decreased striatal GABA(A) binding after activity wheel running

Rod K. Dishman, Andrea L. Dunn, Shawn D. Youngstedt, J. Mark Davis, Maria L. Burgess, Steven P. Wilson, Marlene A. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Open-field behavior has been used to model reductions in anxiety-related behaviors in the rat after chronic physical activity. Plausible mechanisms for the increased open field locomotion observed after physical activity have not been studied. Open field locomotion is decreased by γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and its agonists, and increased by GABA antagonists, in the ventral striatum. Hence, we tested the hypothesis that increased open field locomotion following chronic physical activity would be accompanied by a decrease in the number of GABA, receptors in the corpus striatum. Young (~55 days) male Sprague-Dawley rats (N = 24) were randomly assigned to three conditions: 24-h access to an activity wheel (AW), running for 1 h without shock 6 days/week on a motorized treadmill (TM), or sedentary control (C). Open field locomotion (total and center squares traversed), defecation, and urination were assessed on each of 3 consecutive days prior to and again after 8 weeks of physical activity. Open field locomotion (total and center squares) increased after activity wheel running, decreased after treadmill training, and did not change for control animals. GABA(A) receptor density indicated by [3H]bicuculline binding (fmol/mg) was lower for activity wheel animals compared with treadmill animals and controls. GABA concentration (μmol/g) was not different between activity wheel and treadmill groups but was higher for both groups contrasted with controls. Our findings of decreased GABA, density in the corpus striatum concomitant with an increase in open field locomotion are consistent with an anxiolytic effect of chronic activity wheel running.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)699-705
Number of pages7
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Exercise
  • Limbic-motor integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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