Working Out And Addiction: The Scary Connection

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Could being devoted to exercise make it harder for you to break an addiction? Researchers think so. A new study at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign injected mice with a chemical that tracks newly created brain cells and then divided them into two groups — sedentary and those that used running wheels. After thirty days, the mice were introduced to cocaine. All mice liked the drugs, but the researchers discovered that once exposing the sedentary mice to running wheels, it was easier for the rodents to kick their cocaine habit. In fact, they soon preferred running to the drugs. However, the active mice were not as lucky: they never lost their taste for cocaine.
Why? Researchers believe that exercise strongly affects learning. The mice that had been running from the start of the study had twice as many brain cells as the sedentary mice – and in this case, those brain cells had been used to form a cocaine addiction. “Fundamentally, the results are encouraging,” says Justin S. Rhodes, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois and an author of the study. “Exercise improves associative learning.” The mice that started exercising after being introduced to cocaine learned to kick their habit with their new cells. This may be because of multiple studies that have suggested that exercise stimulates reward centers in the brain that can fill in for drug cravings. “It’s a no-brainer,” says Dr. Rhodes. “Exercise is good for you in almost every way.” (NYTimes)
Photographed by CJ Isaac

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