One of the most commonly accepted benefits of enhanced physical activity is the improvement in the symptoms of depression, including the facilitation of decision-making. Up until now, these effects have been shown in rodents and humans only. Little is known about their evolutionary origin or biological basis, and the underlying cellular mechanisms also remain relatively elusive. Here, we demonstrate for the first time that preceding motor activity accelerates decision-making in an invertebrate, the pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis. To investigate decision-making in a novel environment, snails, which normally live in water, were placed on a flat dry surface to simulate the potentially threatening consequence of being in an arid environment. This stimulus initiated two distinct phases in snail behavior: slow circular movements, followed by intense locomotion in a chosen direction. The first phase was prolonged when the test arena was symmetrically lit, compared to one with an apparent gradient of light. However, forced muscular locomotion for two hours prior to the test promoted the transition from random circular motions to a directional crawl, accompanied by an increase in crawling speed but with no effect on the choice of direction. Two hours of intense locomotion produced also strong excitatory effect on the activity of serotonergic neurons in L. stagnalis. Our results suggest that the beneficial effects of physical exercise on cognitive performance in mammals might have deep roots in evolution, granting the opportunity to unravel the origins of such effects at the single neuron and network levels.
- Received July 26, 2016.
- Accepted September 2, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd