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Patients with a history of early life stress (ELS) exposure have an increased risk of developing chronic pain and mood disorders later in life. The severity of ELS in patients with urologic chronic pelvic pain syndrome (UCPPS) is directly correlated with symptom severity and increased comorbidity, and is inversely related to likelihood of improvement. Voluntary exercise improves chronic pain symptoms, and our group and others have shown that voluntary wheel running can improve outcomes in stress-induced UCPPS models, suggesting that exercise may negate some of the outcomes associated with ELS. Here, we provide further evidence that voluntary wheel running can attenuate increased perigenital mechanical sensitivity, bladder output, and mast cell degranulation in the bladder and prostate in male mice that underwent neonatal maternal separation (NMS). Sedentary male NMS mice had reduced serum corticosterone, which was not impacted by voluntary wheel running, although stress-related regulatory gene expression in the hypothalamus and hippocampus was significantly increased after exercise. Neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus was diminished in sedentary NMS mice and significantly increased in both exercised naïve and NMS mice. Sucrose consumption increased in exercised naïve but not NMS mice, and anxiety behaviors measured on an elevated plus maze were increased after exercise. Together these data suggest that voluntary wheel running is sufficient to normalize many of the UCPPS-related outcomes resulting from NMS. Exercise also increased hippocampal neurogenesis and stress-related gene expression within the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, further supporting exercise as a nonpharmacological intervention for attenuating outcomes related to ELS exposure.



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mouse, voluntary wheel running, pituitary-adrenal system, psychological stress, maternal deprivation, chronic pain, hypothalamo-hypophyseal system