Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Runners' High Demonstrated: Brain Imaging Shows Release Of Endorphins In Brain

Date:
March 6, 2008
Source:
University of Bonn
Summary:
Throughout the world, amateurs, experts and the media agree that prolonged jogging raises people's spirits. And many believe that the body's own opioids, so called endorphins, are the cause of this. But this has never been proven until now. Researchers have now succeeded in demonstrating the existence of an 'endorphin driven runner's 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. These results are also relevant for patients suffering from chronic pain.

Researchers have succeeded in demonstrating the existence of an 'endorphin driven runner's high'.
Credit: Arzt-Läufer, Image courtesy of University of Bonn

Throughout the world, amateurs, experts and the media agree that prolonged jogging raises people's spirits. And many believe that the body's own opioids, so called endorphins, are the cause of this. But in fact this has never been proven until now. Researchers at the Technische Universität München and the University of Bonn succeeded in demonstrating the existence of an 'endorphin driven runner's 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.

These results are also relevant for patients suffering from chronic pain, because the body's own opiates are produced in areas of the brain which are involved in the suppression of pain.

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 body's 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.

Endorphin hypothesis confirmed

Scientists from the fields of Nuclear Medicine, Neurology and Anaesthesia at the Technische Universität München (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 athlete's 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 body's own opioids while doing long-distance running. 'We could validate for the first time an endorphin driven runner's high and identify the affected brain areas', states Boecker. 'It's 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 Tölle, 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.' This has clear implications for those who suffer 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,' he concluded.

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 body's own pain-killer, a potent potential therapeutic option. '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 Tölle comments, 'if we ran because our genes wanted us to do so.' The first step towards researching these connections has now been made.

The results of the study " The Runner's High: Opioidergic Mechanisms in the Human Brain" are published in the journal 'Cerebral Cortex'. This research was supported by the German Research Association, as well as the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the German Association of Neuropathic Pain. 


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bonn. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Bonn. "Runners' High Demonstrated: Brain Imaging Shows Release Of Endorphins In Brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080303101110.htm>.
University of Bonn. (2008, March 6). Runners' High Demonstrated: Brain Imaging Shows Release Of Endorphins In Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080303101110.htm
University of Bonn. "Runners' High Demonstrated: Brain Imaging Shows Release Of Endorphins In Brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080303101110.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) — More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) — Research from Washington University suggest people with conscientious spouses have greater career success. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) — Researchers say certain markers in the blood can predict risk of psychosis later in the life. The test can aid in early treatment for the condition. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) — Teri Tacheny, a harpist, has a loyal following of fans who appreciate her soothing music. Every month, gorillas, orangutans and monkeys amble down to hear her play at the Como Park Zoo in Minnesota. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins