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Keywords:

  • fatty acid amide hydrolase;
  • cannabinoid receptor;
  • AM251;
  • hippocampus;
  • treadmill

ABSTRACT

It is well known that physical exercise has positive effects on cognitive functions and hippocampal plasticity. However, the underlying mechanisms have remained to be further investigated. Here we investigated the hypothesis that the memory-enhancement promoted by physical exercise relies on facilitation of the endocannabinoid system. We observed that the spatial memory tested in the object location paradigm did not persist in sedentary mice, but could be improved by 1 week of treadmill running. In addition, exercise up-regulated CB1 receptor and BDNF expression in the hippocampus. To verify if these changes required CB1 activation, we treated the mice with the selective antagonist, AM251, before each period of physical activity. In line with our hypothesis, this drug prevented the exercise-induced memory enhancement and BDNF expression. Furthermore, AM251 reduced CB1 expression. To test if facilitating the endocannabinoid system signaling would mimic the alterations observed after exercise, we treated sedentary animals during 1 week with the anandamide-hydrolysis inhibitor, URB597. Mice treated with this drug recognized the object in a new location and have increased levels of CB1 and BDNF expression in the hippocampus, showing that potentiating the endocanabinoid system equally benefits memory. In conclusion, the favorable effects of exercise upon spatial memory and BDNF expression depend on facilitation of CB1 receptor signaling, which can be mimic by inhibition of anandamide hydrolysis in sedentary animals. Our results suggest that, at least in part, the promnesic effect of the exercise is dependent of CB1 receptor activation and is mediated by BDNF. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.