In vivo microdialysis studies have shown that exercise increases the concentration of dopamine (DA) in the striatum of the rat brain. It has also been shown that PET with [11C]raclopride can be used to assess changes in brain DA induced by drugs and by performance tasks such as playing a video game. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of exercise (treadmill running) on striatal DA release in the human brain.
Methods: Twelve healthy volunteers (5 women, 7 men; mean age, 32 +/- 5 y; age range, 25-40 y) with a history of regular exercise received 2 PET scans with [11C]raclopride on 2 separate days, 1 at baseline and 1 at 5-10 min after running on a treadmill for 30 min. The speed and inclination of the treadmill were increased gradually to reach a maximal speed of 9.7 km/h (6 mph) and a maximal inclination of 10degrees. Data were acquired on a Siemens HR+ scanner in 3-dimensional mode for 60 min. Heart rates and electrocardiograms were monitored. DA D2 receptor availability was measured using the ratio of the distribution volume in the putamen to that in the cerebellum, which is a function of the number of available binding sites/dissociation constant.
Results: The subjects ran at an average speed of 8.7 +/- 0.5 km/h (5.4 +/- 0.3 mph) and at an inclination of 3.3degrees +/- 2degrees. The maximum effort of running was maintained for 10-15 min. The heart rates of the subjects were increased by 143% +/- 47%. DA D2 receptor availability in the putamen after treadmill running (4.22 +/- 0.34) was no different from that of baseline (4.17 +/- 0.29; P < 0.6).
Conclusion: No significant changes in synaptic DA concentration were detected, although the subjects exercised vigorously for 30 min.