Mood Stabilizing Effects of Exercise

This week in Neuroscience, researchers from different universities in Ontario, Canada collaborated to publish a study showing that melatonin and exercise could prove to be effective treatments for reducing mania-type symptoms in individuals with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by states of mania, abnormally intensified moods and energy levels, which are sometimes accompanied by states of depression.  Pharmaceuticals may provide some relief of symptoms, but they are not effective for everyone, and are certainly not a cure for the disorder.  Thus, scientists are still searching for potential treatments.  The Canadian researchers in this study found that melatonin and exercise are independently capable of stabilizing mood in individuals with bipolar disorder.

Typical mania-type symptoms of bipolar disorder include increased activity, increased risk-taking behavior, and reduced sleeping.  The researchers used a strain of mouse called Myshkin, that carries a gene mutation and consequently makes the mice show mania-type symptoms that are typical of bipolar disorder.  The Myshkin mice in this study were compared to wild-type mice, which show ‘normal’ mouse activity, risk-taking, and sleeping behaviors.  The researchers found that when the Myshkin mice were given access to a running wheel, and thus performed voluntary exercise, their mania-related behaviors were reduced.  This result signifies that exercise was successful in relieving the Myshkin mice of some mania-type symptoms, which is promising evidence for exercise as an effective treatment option for bipolar disorder.

Similar to the effect of exercise on the mania behaviors, the Myshkin mice that were given melatonin showed reduced mania-related behaviors in certain behavioral tasks used to measure risk-taking behavior, anxiety, and hyperactivity.  The melatonin treatment was also effective in alleviating disturbed sleeping patterns in the Myshkin mice, which is a common symptom of bipolar disorder in humans.

This research provides evidence for the efficacy of two treatments, melatonin and exercise, for alleviating mania symptoms of bipolar disorder.  Since exercise is a low or no cost treatment, the ramifications of this research could affect a wide array of individuals who have bipolar disorder.  Exercise could be used independently as an effective way of alleviating mania-related symptoms, or it could easily be used to supplement existing treatments, such as pharmaceuticals.

Full article:

Kirshenbaum, G. S. et al. (2014). Attenuation of mania-like behavior in Na(+),K(+)-ATPase α3 mutant mice by prospective therapies for bipolar disorder: Melatonin and exercise. Neuroscience, 260. 195-204.

About Lydia Marks