However, Francis Chaouloff, research director at Inserm's NeuroCentre Magendie (Inserm Joint Research Unit 862, Universit Bordeaux Sgalen), Sarah Dubreucq, a PhD student and Franois Georges, a CNRS research leader at the Interdisciplinary Institute for Neuroscience (CNRS/Universit Bordeaux Sgalen) have just discovered the key role played by a protein, the CB1 cannabinoid receptor, during physical exercise. In their mouse studies, the researchers demonstrated that the location of this receptor in a part of the brain associated with motivation and reward systems controls the time for which an individual will carry out voluntary physical exercise. These results were published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
The collective appraisal conducted by Inserm in 2008 highlighted the many preventive health benefits of regular physical activity. Such activity is limited, however, by our lifestyle in today's industrial society. While varying degrees of physical inactivity may be partly explained by social causes, they are also rooted in biology.
"The inability to experience pleasure during physical activity, which is often quoted as one explanation why people partially or completely drop out of physical exercise programmes, is a clear sign that the biology of the nervous system is involved", explains Francis Chaouloff.
But how exactly? The neurobiological mechanisms underlying physical inactivity had yet to be identified.
Francis Chaouloff (Giovanni Marsicano's team at the NeuroCentre Magendie; Inserm joint research unit, Universit Bordeaux Sgalen) and his team have now begun to decipher these mechanisms. Their work clearly identifies the endogenous cannabinoid (or endocannabinoid) system as playing a decisive role, in particular one of its brain receptors. This is by no means the first time that data has pointed to interactions between the endocannabinoid system, which is the target of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (the act
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