Hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor but not neurotrophin-3 increases more in mice selected for increased voluntary wheel running

Neuroscience. 2003;121(1):1-7. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(03)00422-6.


Voluntary wheel running in rats increases hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression, a neurochemical important for neuronal survival, differentiation, connectivity and synaptic plasticity. Here, we report the effects of wheel running on BDNF and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) protein levels in normal control mice, and in mice selectively bred (25 generations) for increased voluntary wheel running. We hypothesized that increased voluntary wheel running in selected (S) mice would increase CNS BDNF and NT-3 protein levels more than in control (C) mice. Baseline hippocampal BDNF levels (mice housed without running wheels) were similar in S and C mice. Following seven nights of running, hippocampal BDNF increased significantly more in S versus C mice, and levels were correlated with distance run (considering C and S mice together). Spinal and cerebellar BDNF and hippocampal NT-3 levels were not significantly affected by wheel running in any group, but there was a small, positive correlation between spinal C3-C6 BDNF levels and distance run (considering C and S mice together). This is the first study to demonstrate that mice which choose to run more have greater elevations in hippocampal BDNF, suggesting enhanced potential for exercise-induced hippocampal neuroplasticity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Breeding / methods*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Neurotrophin 3 / biosynthesis*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Neurotrophin 3