The Impact of Voluntary Exercise on Stroke Recovery.
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Stroke treatment is limited to time-critical thrombectomy and rehabilitation by physiotherapy. Studies report beneficial effects of exercise; however, a knowledge gap exists regarding underlying mechanisms that benefit recovery of brain networks and cognition. This study aims to unravel therapeutic effects of voluntary exercise in stroke-induced mice to develop better personalized treatments. Male C57Bl6/JOlaHsd mice were subjected to transient middle cerebral artery occlusion. After surgery, the animals were divided in a voluntary exercise group with access to running wheels (RW), and a control group without running wheels (NRW). During 6 days post-stroke, activity/walking patterns were measured 24/7 in digital ventilated cages. Day 7 post-surgery, animals underwent MRI scanning (11.7T) to investigate functional connectivity (rsfMRI) and white matter (WM) integrity (DTI). Additionally, postmortem polarized light imaging (PLI) was performed to quantify WM fiber density and orientation. After MRI the animals were sacrificed and neuroinflammation and cerebral vascularisation studied. Voluntary exercise promoted myelin density recovery corresponding to higher fractional anisotropy. The deteriorating impact of stroke on WM dispersion was detected only in NRW mice. Moreover, rsfMRI revealed increased functional connectivity, cerebral blood flow and vascular quality leading to improved motor skills in the RW group. Furthermore, voluntary exercise showed immunomodulatory properties post-stroke. This study not only helped determining the therapeutic value of voluntary exercise, but also provided understanding of pathological mechanisms involved in stroke.


Spatial Transcriptomics
mouse model
polarized light imaging


Lohkamp, Klara J
Kiliaan, Amanda J
Shenk, Justin
Verweij, Vivienne
Wiesmann, Maximilian

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