Establishing Equivalent Aerobic Exercise Parameters Between Early-Stage Parkinson's Disease and Pink1 Knockout Rats

Michael F. Salvatore, Isabel Soto, Ella A. Kasanga, Rachael James, Marla K. Shifflet, Kirby Doshier, Joel T. Little, Joshia John, Helene M. Alphonso, J. Thomas Cunningham, Vicki A. Nejtek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Rodent Parkinson's disease (PD) models are valuable to interrogate neurobiological mechanisms of exercise that mitigate motor impairment. Translating these mechanisms to human PD must account for physical capabilities of the patient. Objective: To establish cardiovascular parameters as a common metric for cross-species translation of aerobic exercise impact. Method: We evaluated aerobic exercise impact on heart rate (HR) in 21 early-stage PD subjects (Hoehn Yahr ≤1.5) exercising in non-contact boxing training for ≥3 months, ≥3x/week. In 4-month-old Pink1 knockout (KO) rats exercising in a progressively-increased treadmill speed regimen, we determined a specific treadmill speed that increased HR to an extent similar in human subjects. Results: After completing aerobic exercise for ∼30 min, PD subjects had increased HR∼35% above baseline (∼63% maximum HR). Motor and cognitive test results indicated the exercising subjects completed the timed up and go (TUG) and trail-making test (TMT-A) in significantly less time versus exercise-naïve PD subjects. In KO and age-matched wild-type (WT) rats, treadmill speeds of 8-10 m/min increased HR up to 25% above baseline (∼67% maximum HR), with no further increases up to 16 m/min. Exercised KO, but not WT, rats showed increased locomotor activity compared to an age-matched exercise-naïve cohort at 5 months old. Conclusion: These proof-of-concept results indicate HR is a cross-species translation parameter to evaluate aerobic exercise impact on specific motor or cognitive functions in human subjects and rat PD models. Moreover, a moderate intensity exercise regimen is within the physical abilities of early-stage PD patients and is therefore applicable for interrogating neurobiological mechanisms in rat PD models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1897-1915
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Parkinson's Disease
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2022


  • Exercise
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Pink1
  • aging
  • cardiovascular
  • locomotor


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