Exercise builds brain health: key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation

Source: TRENDS in Neuroscience, September 2007

In this research article, the authors review scientific studies that analyze the benefits of exercise on the brain. They propose that exercise can improve the brain’s central mechanisms and reduce peripheral factors for cognitive decline. In addition to improving memory, learning, and the effects of depression, exercise can reduce peripheral risk factors (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular disease) for neurodegeneration caused by inflammation.

Exercise counteracts inflammation’s negative effects by reducing the spread of pro-inflammatory signals (IGF-1 cytokines) and by increasing growth factor levels and signals (BDNF) in the brain. However, further research is needed on the functional consequences of Hippocampal neurogenesis—specifically, whether and/or how enhancing Hippocampal neurogenesis (through exercise) affects plasticity, learning, memory, and stress.