Scientists Discover Area of Brain Responsible for Exercise Motivation. A Cure For Depression?

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Dr. Eric Turner, a principal investigator in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Integrative Brain Research have discovered an area of the brain that could control a person’s motivation to exercise – potentially leading to improved treatments for depression.

Together with lead author Dr. Yun-Wei (Toni) Hsu, it has been discovered that a tiny region of the brain – the dorsal medial habenula – controls the desire to exercise in mice.

Exercise is one of the most effective non-pharmacological therapies for depression.

Thus the correlation to a possible anti depression cure.

“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.”

“Dr. Turner’s study, titled “Role of the Dorsal Medial Habenula in the Regulation of Voluntary Activity, Motor Function, Hedonic State, and Primary Reinforcement,” was published today by the Journal of Neuroscience and funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and National Institute on Drug Abuse. ”

As a professor in the University of Washington Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Turner treats depression and hopes this research will make a difference in the lives of future patients.

“Working in mental health can be frustrating,” Turner said. “We have not made a lot of progress in developing new treatments. I hope the more we can learn about how the brain functions the more we can help people with all kinds of mental illness.”


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“Scientists Discover Area of Brain Responsible for Exercise Motivation. A Cure For Depression?”