Maternal deprivation (MD) may cause neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety disorder by negatively affecting the cognitive functions and behavior in pups. The aim of this study is to investigate whether maternal exercise during pregnancy has beneficial effects on anxiety that increases with MD, and on the levels of VEGF and BDNF which have anxiolytic effects on the prefrontal cortex, the anxiety-related region of the brain. The anxiety level in the deprivation group was greater than the control group and found more in male than female pups. The prefrontal cortex VEGF and BDNF levels were decreased in the deprivation group compared to control group while serum corticosterone levels were increased in the deprivation group. Anxiety and serum corticosterone levels were decreased in maternally exercised female and male pups, while the prefrontal cortex VEGF and BDNF levels were increased, compared to sedentary mother's pups. These results indicate that maternal exercise may attenuate the negative effect of stresses such as maternal deprivation that can be encountered early in life. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.