Adult hippocampal neurogenesis and voluntary running activity: circadian and dose-dependent effects

J Neurosci Res. 2004 Apr 15;76(2):216-22. doi: 10.1002/jnr.20039.


Running activity increases cell proliferation and neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of adult mice. The present experiment was designed to investigate whether the effect of activity on adult neurogenesis is dependent on the time of day (circadian phase) and the amount of activity. Mice received restricted access to a running wheel (0, 1, or 3 hr) at one of three times of day: the middle of the light phase (i.e., when mice are normally inactive), dark onset (i.e., when mice begin their nocturnal activity), and the middle of the dark period (i.e., when mice are in the middle of their active period). Cell proliferation and net neurogenesis were assessed after incorporation of the thymidine analog bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) and immunohistochemical detection of BrdU and neuronal markers. Running activity significantly increased cell proliferation, cell survival, and total number of new neurons only in animals with 3 hr of wheel access during the middle of the dark period. Although activity was positively correlated with increased neurogenesis at all time points, the effects were not statistically significant in animals with wheel access at the beginning of the dark period or during the middle of the light period. These data suggest that the influence of exercise on cell proliferation and neurogenesis is modulated by both circadian phase and the amount of daily exercise, thus providing new insight into the complex relationship between physiological and behavioral factors that can mediate adult neuroplasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Bromodeoxyuridine / metabolism
  • Cell Count / methods
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*
  • Running*
  • Time Factors


  • Bromodeoxyuridine