ISSN : 2146-3123
E-ISSN : 2146-3131

Regular Aerobic Voluntary Exercise Increased Oxytocin in Female Mice: Cause to Decrease Anxiety and Increase Empathy-Like Behaviors
Oğuz Yüksel1, Mehmet Ateş2, Servet Kızıldağ2, Zeynep Yüce3, Başar Koç4, Sevim Kandiş4, Güven Güvendi4, Aslı Karakılıç4, Hikmet Gümüş4,5, Nazan Uysal4
1Department of Sports Medicine, Dokuz Eylül University School of Medicine, İzmir, Turkey
2College of Vocational School of Health Services, Dokuz Eylül University School of Medicine, İzmir, Turkey
3Department of Medical Biology and Genetics, Dokuz Eylül University School of Medicine, İzmir, Turkey
4Department of Physiology, Dokuz Eylül University School of Medicine, İzmir, Turkey
5Dokuz Eylul University School of Sport Sciences and Technology, İzmir, Turkey
DOI : 10.4274/balkanmedj.galenos.2019.2018.12.87

Background: It’s known that regular physical activity reduces anxiety. Low anxiety levels affect mood, emotion, and empathy behavior. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone that regulates social interaction, sexual reproduction, maternal-infant bonding, milk release, empathy, and anxiety. Empathy is important in living community; and also important for sportsmen’s life during sportive competition as well as except competition period, because of sportsmen also seen as role model by other people.
Aims: The aim of this study is to investigate the effects of voluntary physical activity on oxytocin, anxiety and empathy levels and the relationship between them.
Study Design: Animal experiment.
Methods: Male and female mice were exercised in running wheel cages for 6 weeks. Their anxiety and empathy levels were evaluated, and then brain and blood oxytocin levels were measured.
Results: Empathy-like behavior was improved in both genders of exercised groups (door opening time decreased in both gender of exercised groups, both of p=0.0001). As a response to exercise, brain and serum oxytocin levels increased in female mice (both of p=0.0001); but oxytocin levels increased in only brain of males (p<0.05). Anxiety levels decreased in all exercised groups (increased time spent in the middle area of open field test, both gender of p=0.002; increased time spent in the open arms of elevated plus maze test, females p=0.004, males p=0.0001). There was a strong negative correlation was found between serum oxytocin levels and door opening time of helping behavior equipment and moderate negative correlation was found between brain oxytocin levels and door opening time of helping behavior equipment in females. Whereas; there wasn't any correlation between both brain and serum oxytocin levels and empathy behavior in males. And also there were very strong positive correlations between low anxiety indicators and both brain and serum oxytocin levels in both gender.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that voluntary physical activity decreases anxiety and increases empathy-like behavior in mice; which is associated with increased oxytocin levels in female mice whereas it is not associated with oxytocin levels in male mice. Further research is needed to investigate the mechanisms of exercise effect on anxiety and empathic brain pathways in males.

Keywords : Exercise, anxiety, empathy, oxytocin, brain, gender
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