Exercise-induced increases in Anandamide and BDNF during extinction consolidation contribute to reduced threat following reinstatement: Preliminary evidence from a randomized controlled trial

Kevin M. Crombie, Anneliis Sartin-Tarm, Kyrie Sellnow, Rachel Ahrenholtz, Sierra Lee, Megan Matalamaki, Neda E. Almassi, Cecilia J. Hillard, Kelli F. Koltyn, Tom G. Adams, Josh M. Cisler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction: We recently demonstrated that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise delivered during the consolidation of fear extinction learning reduced threat expectancy during a test of extinction recall among women with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These findings suggest that exercise may be a potential candidate for improving the efficacy of exposure-based therapies, which are hypothesized to work via the mechanisms of fear extinction learning. The purpose of this secondary analysis was to examine whether exercise-induced increases in circulating concentrations of candidate biomarkers: endocannabinoids (anandamide [AEA]; 2-arachidonoylglycerol [2-AG], brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and homovanillic acid (HVA), mediate the effects of exercise on extinction recall. Methods: Participants (N = 35) completed a 3-day fear acquisition (day 1), extinction (day 2), and extinction recall (day 3) protocol, in which participants were randomly assigned to complete either moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (EX) or a light-intensity control (CON) condition following extinction training (day 2). Blood was obtained prior to and following EX or CON. Threat expectancy ratings during tests of extinction recall (i.e., initial fear recall and fear recall following reinstatement) were obtained 24 h following EX or CON. Mediation was tested using linear-mixed effects models and bootstrapping of the indirect effect. Results: Circulating concentrations of AEA and BDNF (but not 2-AG and HVA) were found to mediate the relationship between moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and reduced threat expectancy ratings following reinstatement (AEA 95% CI: −0.623 to −0.005; BDNF 95% CI: −0.941 to −0.005). Conclusions: Exercise-induced increases in peripheral AEA and BDNF appear to play a role in enhancing consolidation of fear extinction learning, thereby leading to reduced threat expectancies following reinstatement among women with PTSD. Future mechanistic research examining these and other biomarkers (e.g., brain-based biomarkers) is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105355
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Volume132
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Aerobic exercise
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Exposure-therapy
  • Fear extinction
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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