Navigation Links
The myth of runner's high revisited with brain imaging

Throughout the world, amateurs, experts and the media agree that prolonged jogging raises people's spirits. And many believe that the bodys own opioids, so called endorphins, are the cause of this. But in fact this has never been proved until now. Researchers at the Technische Universitt Mnchen and the University of Bonn succeeded to demonstrate the existence of an endorphin driven runners high. In an imaging study they were able to show, for the first time, increased release of endorphins in certain areas of the athletes' brains during a two-hour jogging session. Their results are also relevant for patients suffering from chronic pain, because the bodys own opiates are produced in areas of the brain which are involved in the suppression of pain. The researchers, some of whom are also members of the German Research Network of Neuropathic Pain (Deutscher Forschungsverbund Neuropathischer Schmerz, DFNS), which is also funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium fr Bildung und Forschung, BMBF), thereby show that jogging not only makes you high, but can also relieve pain. The results of the study have now been published in the scientific journal 'Cerebral Cortex'.

Runner's high

Endurance sports have long been seen as reducing stress, relieving anxiety, enhancing mood and decreasing the perception of pain. The high that accompanies jogging even led to the creation of its own term, runner's high. Yet the cause of these positive effects on the senses was not clear until now. The most popular theory was and still is the 'Endorphin Hypothesis', which claimed that there was increased production of the bodys own opioids in the brain. However, since until now direct proof of this theory could not be provided; for technical reasons, it was a constant source of controversial discussions in scientific circles. The result was that the myth of 'runner's high through endorphins' lived on.

Scientists confirm the endorphin hypothesis for the first time

Scientists from the fields of Nuclear Medicine, Neurology and Anaesthesia at the Technische Universitt Mnchen (TUM) and the University of Bonn have now subjected the endorphin theory to closer scrutiny. Ten athletes were scanned before and after a two-hour long-distance run using an imaging technique called positron emission tomography (PET). For this they used the radioactive substance [18F]diprenorphine ([18F]FDPN), which binds to the opiate receptors in the brain and hence competes with endorphins. 'The more endorphins are produced in the athletes brain, the more opiate receptors are blocked,' says Professor Henning Boecker, who coordinated the research at TUM and who is now in charge of the Functional Neuroimaging Group at the Dept. of Radiology, University Hospital Bonn. And further: 'Respectively the opioid receptor binding of the [18F]FDPN decreases, since there is a direct competition between endorphins in the brain and the injected ligand'. By comparing the images before and after two hours of long distance running the study could demonstrate a significantly decreased binding of the [18F]FDPN-ligand. This is a strong argument in favour of an increased production of the bodys own opioids while doing long-distance running. 'We could validate for the first time an endorphin driven runners high and identify the affected brain areas', states Boecker. 'Its interesting to see that the affected brain areas were preferentially located in prefrontal and limbic brain regions which are known to play a key role in emotional processing. Moreover, we observed a significant increase of the euphoria and happiness ratings compared to the ratings before the running exercise.' Professor Thomas Tlle, who for several years has been head of a research group called Functional Imaging of Pain at TU Munich, adds: 'Our evaluations show that the more intensively the high is experienced, the lower the binding of [18F]FDPN was in the PET scan. And this means that the ratings of euphoria and happiness correlated directly with the release of the endorphins.' In addition, as a spokesman of the German Association of Neuropathic Pain, he feels happy for patients suffering from chronic pain. 'The fact that the endorphins are also released in areas of the brain that are at the centre of the suppression of pain was not quite unexpected, but even this proof was missing. Now we hope that these images will also impress our pain patients and will motivate them to take up sports training within their available limits.'

Running down the pain?

It is well known that endorphins facilitate the body's own pain suppression by influencing the way the body passes on pain and processes it in the nervous system and brain. The increased production of endorphins resulting from long-distance running could also serve as the bodys own pain-killer, a therapeutic option which is not only of interest to the German Association of Neuropathic Pain. 'Now we are very curious about the results of an imaging study using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging which we are currently carrying out in Bonn in order to investigate the influence of long-distance running on the processing of pain directly,' Professor Boecker says. Further research is required so as to investigate the exact effects on depression and states of anxiety but also on possible aspects which may promote addiction. That is why the relation between genetic disposition and opiate receptor distribution in the brain is being currently investigated at TU Munich. 'A scary thought,' Thomas Tlle comments, 'if we ran because our genes wanted us to do so.' The first step towards researching these connections has now been made.


Contact: Dr. Henning Boecker
University of Bonn

Related biology news :

1. Invasion of the brain tumors
2. HIV is a double hit to the brain
3. AIDS interferes with stem cells in the brain
4. 60 second test could help early diagnosis of common brain diseases
5. U of MN researchers discover noninvasive diagnostic tool for brain diseases
6. U of Minnesota researchers discover noninvasive diagnostic tool for brain diseases
7. Influence of sex and handedness on brain is similar in capuchin monkeys and humans
8. Inside the brain of a crayfish
9. Specific brain protein required for nerve cell connections to form and function
10. Brains timing linked with timescales of the natural visual world
11. Adult brain can change, study confirms
Post Your Comments:
(Date:4/15/2016)...  A new partnership announced today will help ... in a fraction of the time it takes ... life insurance policies to consumers without requiring inconvenient ... Diagnostics, rapid testing (A1C, Cotinine and HIV) and ... weight, pulse, BMI, and activity data) available at ...
(Date:3/31/2016)... 31, 2016   ... the "Company") LegacyXChange is excited to release ... soon to be launched online site for trading 100% ... ) will also provide potential shareholders a sense of ... to an industry that is notorious for fraud. The ...
(Date:3/22/2016)... , March 22, 2016 ... report "Electronic Sensors Market for Consumer Industry by Type ... Others), Application (Communication & IT, Entertainment, Home ... Global Forecast to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, ... expected to reach USD 26.76 Billion by ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... A person commits a crime, and the detective ... the criminal down. An outbreak of foodborne illness ... (FDA) uses DNA evidence to track down the bacteria that ... It,s not. The FDA has increasingly used a complex, cutting-edge ... illnesses. Put as simply as possible, whole genome sequencing is ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... FRANCISCO , June 23, 2016   EpiBiome ... has secured $1 million in debt financing from Silicon ... ramp up automation and to advance its drug development ... its new facility. "SVB has been an ... beyond the services a traditional bank would provide," said ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016  Blueprint Bio, a company dedicated to ... medical community, has closed its Series A funding round, ... "We have received a commitment from Forentis ... need to meet our current goals," stated Matthew ... runway to complete validation on the current projects in ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Velocity Products, a division of ... and optimized exclusively for Okuma CNC machining centers at The International Manufacturing Technology ... among several companies with expertise in toolholding, cutting tools, machining dynamics and distribution, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: