Scientists Discover Area of Brain Responsible for Exercise Motivation
Scientists have discovered an area of the brain that could control a person’s motivation to exercise and participate in other rewarding activities, potentially leading to improved treatments for depression. Dr. Eric Turner, together with lead author Dr. Yun-Wei Hsu, have discovered that a tiny region of the brain, the dorsal medial habenula, controls the desire to exercise in mice.
The structure of the habenula is similar in humans and rodents and these basic functions in mood regulation and motivation are likely to be the same across species. Exercise is one of the most effective non-pharmacological therapies for depression. Determining that such a specific area of the brain may be responsible for motivation to exercise could help researchers develop more targeted, effective treatments for depression.
“Changes in physical activity and the inability to enjoy rewarding or pleasurable experiences are two hallmarks of major depression,” Turner said. “But the brain pathways responsible for exercise motivation have not been well understood. Now, we can seek ways to manipulate activity within this specific area of the brain without impacting the rest of the brain’s activity.”