Post-Grant Reports


The Effects of Social Stress on Routine Voluntary Running in Female Mice

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Circulatory and Respiratory Physiology | Exercise Physiology | Health Psychology | Mental and Social Health


This project explores the reciprocal relationship between regular physical activity (PA) and psychological stress. It is known that physical activity can reduce the physiological and behavioral responses to stress that contribute to the development and progression of various disease states. However, stress exposure significantly reduces healthy levels of routine physical activity. We showed previously that voluntary running behavior of male mice essentially ceases following exposure to a resident-intruder social stress that models human post-traumatic stress outcomes. Here we sought to determine whether a similar type of stress would inhibit habitual voluntary running in female mice. Five-week-old, C67BL/6J female mice were divided into four groups (n=8/group): sedentary/control, voluntary running/control, sedentary/stress, and voluntary running/stress. Voluntary running groups were given 24-hour unlimited access to a running wheel in the home cage for 9 weeks. Mice ran a nightly average of 6.86 ± 2.5 km. During the ninth week, stress groups were exposed to a single, 6-hour bout of a female-specific, resident-intruder social stress. Plasma corticosterone significantly increased following stress (34.56 ± 13 ng/ml basal to 330.5 ± 95 ng/ml immediately post-stress), while nightly running dropped significantly to 1.72 ± 0.9 km. Unlike male mice where running levels were slow to recover, voluntary running in these female mice returned to near normal levels by the second night (5.01 ± 2.5 km). This study shows the sensitivity of habitual running behavior to stress exposure and suggests the utility of this mouse model in exploring the means by which stress negatively impacts routine PA.


This research was conducted as part of a Linfield College Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Grant in 2018, funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.

The student collaborator was Caitlyn Cattell.

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