Maternal separation (MS) is a model to induce early life stress (CNS) and is related to increased levels of anxiety and cognitive deficiencies. Voluntary exercise has been shown to be associated with learning and memory improvement in behavioral tests and electrophysiological experiments. Since it plays a significant role in learning and memory and enhances synaptic plasticity, the authors hypothesized that voluntary exercise may affect MS-induced changes in synaptic plasticity and cognitive performance. Rat pups underwent the MS protocol for 180 min/day from postnatal day (PND) 1 to 21. Voluntary exercise was performed in the exercise (Ex and MS + Ex groups from PND 29 to 49. Anxiety-like behavior, learning and memory were measured in adolescent rats. In addition, evoked field excitatory postsynaptic potentials (fEPSP) were recorded from the CA1 region of the hippocampus.MS induced higher anxiety-like behavior as well as impaired learning and memory, but did not affect locomotor activity. Voluntary exercise improved MS-induced deficits and increased the learning and memory of MS rats. It also decreased anxiety-like behavior in the open field test. The results revealed that long-term potentiation (LTP) was induced in all groups, except for MS. However, voluntary exercise induced LTP and had maintenance in MS + Ex.
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