Effects of Voluntary Wheel Running Exercise on Chemotherapy-Impaired Cognitive and Motor Performance in Mice

Thomas H. Lee, Malegaddi Devaki, Douglas A. Formolo, Julia M. Rosa, Andy S.K. Cheng (Corresponding Author), Suk Yu Yau (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment (chemobrain) and muscle wasting (cachexia) are persisting side effects which adversely affect the quality of life of cancer survivors. We therefore investigated the efficacy of physical exercise as a non-pharmacological intervention to reverse the adverse effects of chemotherapy. We examined whether physical exercise in terms of voluntary wheel running could prevent chemotherapy-induced cognitive and motor impairments in mice treated with the multi-kinase inhibitor sorafenib. Adult male BALB/c mice were subdivided into runner and non-runner groups and orally administered with sorafenib (60 mg/kg) or vehicle continuously for four weeks. Mice could freely access the running wheel anytime during sorafenib or vehicle treatment. We found that sorafenib treatment reduced body weight gain (% of change, vehicle: 3.28 ± 3.29, sorafenib: −9.24 ± 1.52, p = 0.0004), impaired hippocampal-dependent spatial memory in the Y maze (exploration index, vehicle: 35.57 ± 11.38%, sorafenib: −29.62 ± 7.90%, p < 0.0001), increased anhedonia-like behaviour in the sucrose preference test (sucrose preference, vehicle: 66.57 ± 3.52%, sorafenib: 44.54 ± 4.25%, p = 0.0005) and impaired motor skill acquisition in rotarod test (latency to fall on day 1: 37.87 ± 8.05 and day 2: 37.22 ± 12.26 s, p > 0.05) but did not induce muscle wasting or reduce grip strength. Concomitant voluntary running reduced anhedonia-like behaviour (sucrose preference, sedentary: 44.54 ± 4.25%, runners: 59.33 ± 4.02%, p = 0.0357), restored impairment in motor skill acquisition (latency to fall on day 1: 50.85 ± 15.45 and day 2: 168.50 ± 37.08 s, p = 0.0004), but failed to rescue spatial memory deficit. Immunostaining results revealed that sorafenib treatment did not affect the number of proliferating cells and immature neurons in the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG), whereas running significantly increased cell proliferation in both vehicle- (total Ki-67+ cells, sedentary: 16,687.34 ± 72.63, exercise: 3320.03 ± 182.57, p < 0.0001) and sorafenib-treated mice (Ki-67+ cells in the ventral DG, sedentary: 688.82.34 ± 38.16, exercise: 979.53 ± 73.88, p < 0.0400). Our results suggest that spatial memory impairment and anhedonia-like behaviour precede the presence of muscle wasting, and these behavioural deficits are independent of the changes in adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Running effectively prevents body weight loss, improves motor skill acquisition and reduces anhedonia-like behaviour associated with increased proliferating cells and immature neurons in DG. Taken together, they support physical exercise rehabilitation as an effective strategy to prevent chemotherapy side effects in terms of mood dysregulation and motor deficit.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5371
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2023


  • adult hippocampal neurogenesis
  • chemotherapy
  • depression
  • learning and memory
  • muscle wasting
  • physical exercise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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