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Collaborative Success Stories: Center of Attention

University of Missouri researchers have discovered the brain’s pleasure center may be a culprit in postmenopausal women’s reduced physical activity.

Lack of physical activity can lead to high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and other dangerous conditions. Unfortunately, postmenopausal women tend to have lower levels of physical activity. For many years, scientists have been unable to identify a reason for the shift. Now, MU researchers have discovered a biological cause.

Nutrition and exercise physiology scientists Vicki Vieria-Potter, Jaume Padilla and Jill Kanaley led a team of interdisciplinary researchers from across the MU campus in examining activity levels of rats who voluntarily ran on a wheel before and after menopause. They discovered that active postmenopausal rats showed evidence of reduced levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain’s pleasure center. Physiologically, activity was less rewarding for the rats than it had previously been.

The discovery could inform new strategies to maintain motivation for physical activity—keeping postmenopausal women at a better level of health.

Drs. Victoria Vieira-Potter and Jaume Padilla are assistant professors, and Dr. Jill Kanaley is professor and associate chair, in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, an interdisciplinary unit of the College of Human Environmental Sciences; the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; and the School of Medicine.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine