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Voluntary exercise improves cognitive deficits in female dominant-negative DISC1 transgenic mouse model of neuropsychiatric disorders

posted on 08.06.2017 by Hadar Segal-Gavish, Ran Barzilay, Ofri Rimoni, Daniel Offen

Objectives: Physical exercise has gained increasing interest as a treatment modality that improves prognosis in psychiatric patients. The disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) gene is a candidate gene for major mental illness. In this study, we aimed to determine whether voluntary wheel running can improve cognitive deficits of dominant-negative DISC1 transgenic mice (DN-DISC1).

Methods: DN-DISC1 and control mice (10-week-old male and female) were placed for 14 days in a cage with or without access to a running wheel. Two weeks later, mice underwent behavioural tests evaluating cognition and social approach and recognition.

Results: Voluntary exercise improved performance in the novel object recognition test, restored the impairment in spatial memory in the Y maze, and reversed the deficit in social recognition memory in DN-DISC1 females. DN-DISC1 males did not exhibit behavioural deficits at baseline. Tissue analysis revealed that exercise induced a significant increase in hippocampal expression of doublecortin (DCX), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1R) only in DN-DISC1 females.

Conclusions: Voluntary exercise is beneficial in attenuating cognitive deficits observed in a rodent model relevant for neuropsychiatric disorders. The data add a preclinical aspect to the accumulating clinical data supporting the incorporation of physical exercise to patients’ care.


This study was supported in part by the National Institute of Psychobiology in Israel [Grant no. 0601564281].