Selection for intrinsic endurance modifies endocrine stress responsiveness

R. Parrish Waters, Kenneth J. Renner, Cliff H. Summers, Michael J. Watt, Gina L. Forster, Lauren G. Koch, Steven L. Britton, John G. Swallow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Physical exercise dampens an individual's stress response and decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression disorders. While the extrinsic relationship of exercise and psychological state is established, their intrinsic relationship is unresolved. We investigated the potential intrinsic relationship of exercise with stress responsiveness using NIH rats bidirectionally selected for intrinsic endurance capacity. Selection resulted in two populations, one with high intrinsic endurance (high capacity runners; HCR) and one with low intrinsic endurance (low capacity runners; LCR). Animals from these populations were subjected to the elevated plus maze (EPM) and novel environment to assess levels of anxiety-like behavior, and to restraint stress to determine stress responsiveness. Pre-test plasma corticosterone levels and the response of plasma corticosterone to exposure to the EPM and restraint were analyzed using ELISA. A dexamethasone suppression test was performed to assess negative feedback tone of corticosterone release. Pre-test plasma corticosterone levels were similar between LCR and HCR, and these populations had similar behavioral and corticosterone responses to the EPM. Following restraint, HCR animals exhibited more anxiotypic behavior than LCR animals on the EPM, and exhibited an increase in plasma corticosterone following EPM and restraint that was not observed in LCR animals. HCR animals also exhibited more anxiotypic behavior in the novel environment compared to LCR animals. Plasma corticosterone levels were equally reduced in both populations following dexamethasone administration. Overall, our data suggest a positive genetic relationship between exercise endurance and stress responsiveness, which is at odds with the established extrinsic relationship of these traits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-61
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Oct 21 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Exercise endurance
  • Selective breeding
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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