Exercise is an excellent model to study how our environment can influence our physiology and behavior. Short bouts of exercise activate multiple hormonal and neural systems that mobilize energy stores and divert blood flow from our visceral organs to our skeletal muscles, increasing our ability to perform physical work. The effects of chronic exercise on our nervous and endocrine systems are even more profound. A wealth of evidence from both animal and human studies suggests that even low intensity exercise regimens can increase cardiovascular and pulmonary health, and can have potent antidepressant and anxiolytic effects. Furthermore, recent evidence indicates that exercise can decrease some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's Disease, and can decrease the propensity of abstinent addicts to relapse. It is no doubt then, that physical exercise affects multiple aspects of physiological health.
Our primary focus is to understand how physical exercise (i.e. voluntary wheel running) influences the effects of social and environmental stress in laboratory rodents. Two ongoing projects in our laboratory address these questions.
The first stems from observations that