Glucocorticoids, such as prednisolone, are considered sport doping agents owing to their ergogenic properties. These are accounted for by peripheral mechanisms associated with energetic and anti-inflammatory processes. However, because glucocorticoids target brain tissues, it is likely that these ergogenic impacts are associated with central effects. One of these might be reward motivation, which relies on glucocorticoid receptor-expressing mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic neurons. In keeping with this possibility, this study has explored in mice whether repeated prednisolone administration (5 or 15 μg/ml of drinking water for 10 days) affected intrinsic motivation for running, a strong reinforcer in rodents. Running motivation was assessed by means of a cued-reward motivated instrumental task wherein wheel-running was conditioned by prior nose poke responses under fixed (FR), and then progressive (PR), ratio reinforcement schedules. Sub-chronic ingestion of prednisolone decreased the running distance covered during each rewarded sequence under FR schedules. This finding did not extend to wheel-running performances in mice provided free (i.e. unconditioned) wheel-running opportunities. Running motivation, as estimated under a PR reinforcement schedule, was found to be decreased (lowest concentration) or to remain unaffected (highest concentration) by prednisolone concentration. Lastly, an inter-individual analysis of the respective effects of prednisolone on muscular endurance (as assessed in the wire grid-hanging test) and on running motivation indicated that the former was not predictive of the latter. This observation suggests that prednisolone ergogenic impacts might occur without any concomitant increase in intrinsic exercise motivation.
Bastien Redon, Claire Violleau, François Georges, Giovanni Marsicano, Francis Chaouloff
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