Exercise And Time Dependent Benefits To Learning And Memory Biology Essay

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Mitochondria are essential organelles in neurons providing appropriate energetic needs to maintain resting and action potentials as well as to modulate synaptic plasticity. Although neuronal events underlie various behavioral events, the behavior itself, such as voluntary exercise, feeds back to affect neuronal morphology and function as well as glial morphology and function. The hippocampal formation is a main site of synaptic plasticity induced by voluntary exercise. Here we show that voluntary exercise induces uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) mRNA expression and mitochondrial oxygen consumption in coupled as well as uncoupled respiratory states in the hippocampus. These changes in mitochondrial metabolism coincided with an increase in mitochondrial number and dendritic spine synapses in granule cells of the dentate gyrus and the stratum radiatum of the CA1 region and were dependent on UCP2 expression, because in UCP2 knock-out mice such changes were not observed. Together, these observations reveal that a mitochondrial mechanism related to UCP2 function is essential for appropriate bioenergetic adaptation of neurons to increased neuronal activity and synaptic plasticity in response to exercise.


While it is well established that exercise can improve cognitive performance, it is unclear how long these benefits endure after exercise has ended. Accordingly, the effects of voluntary exercise on cognitive function and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) protein levels, a major player in the mechanisms governing the dynamics of memory formation and storage, were assessed immediately after a 3-week running period, or after a 1-week or 2-week delay following the exercise period. All exercised mice showed improved performance on the radial arm water maze relative to sedentary animals. Unexpectedly, fastest acquisition (fewest errors and shortest latency) occurred in animals trained following a 1-week delay, while best memory performance in the probe trial was observed in those trained immediately after the exercise period. Assessment of the time course of hippocampal BDNF availability following exercise revealed significant elevations of BDNF immediately after the exercise period (186% of sedentary levels) and at 1 and 2 weeks after exercise ended, with levels returning to baseline by 3-4 weeks. BDNF protein levels showed a positive correlation with cognitive improvement in radial water maze training and with memory performance on day 4, supporting the idea that BDNF availability contributes to the time-dependent cognitive benefits of exercise revealed in this study. Overall, this novel approach assessing the temporal endurance of cognitive and biochemical effects of exercise unveils new concepts in the exercise-learning field, and reveals that beneficial effects of exercise on brain plasticity continue to evolve even after exercise has ended.

Ann Neurol. 2010 Sep;68(3):311-8.

Exercise and Alzheimer's disease biomarkers in cognitively normal older adults.

Liang KY, Mintun MA, Fagan AM, Goate AM, Bugg JM, Holtzman DM, Morris JC, Head D.

From the Program in Neuroscience, Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA.

Comment in:

Ann Neurol. 2010 Sep;68(3):275-6.


OBJECTIVE: In addition to the increasingly recognized role of physical exercise in maintaining cognition, exercise may influence Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology, as transgenic mouse studies show lowered levels of AD pathology in exercise groups. The objective of this study was to elucidate the association between exercise and AD pathology in humans using Pittsburgh compound-B (PIB), amyloid-beta (Abeta)(42), tau, and phosphorylated tau (ptau)(181) biomarkers.

METHODS: Sixty-nine older adults (17 males, 52 females) aged 55 to 88 years, were recruited and confirmed to be cognitively normal. A questionnaire on physical exercise levels over the past decade was administered to all. Cerebrospinal fluid samples were collected from 56 participants, and amyloid imaging with PIB was performed on 54 participants.

RESULTS: Participants were classified based on biomarker levels. Those with elevated PIB (p = 0.030), tau (p = 0.040), and ptau(181) (p = 0.044) had significantly lower exercise, with a nonsignificant trend for lower Abeta(42) (p = 0.135) to be associated with less exercise. Results were similar for PIB after controlling for covariates; tau (p = 0.115) and ptau(181) (p = 0.123) differences were reduced to nonsignificant trends. Additional analyses also demonstrated that active individuals who met the exercise guidelines set by the American Heart Association had significantly lower PIB binding and higher Abeta(42) levels with and without controlling for covariates (PIB: p = 0.006 and p = 0.001; Abeta(42): p = 0.042 and p = 0.046). Last, the associations between exercise engagement and PIB levels were more prominent in APOE epsilon 4 noncarriers.

INTERPRETATION: Collectively, these results are supportive of an association between exercise engagement and AD biomarkers in cognitively normal older adults.

J Alzheimers Dis. 2010 Jan 1;22(2):569-579.

Aerobic Exercise Improves Cognition for Older Adults with Glucose Intolerance, A Risk Factor for Alzheimer's Disease.

Baker LD, Frank LL, Foster-Schubert K, Green PS, Wilkinson CW, McTiernan A, Cholerton BA, Plymate SR, Fishel MA, Watson GS, Duncan GE, Mehta PD, Craft S.

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Seattle, WA, USA.


Impaired glucose regulation is a defining characteristic of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) pathology and has been linked to increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Although the benefits of aerobic exercise for physical health are well-documented, exercise effects on cognition have not been examined for older adults with poor glucose regulation associated with prediabetes and early T2DM. Using a randomized controlled design, twenty-eight adults (57-83 y old) meeting 2-h tolerance test criteria for glucose intolerance completed 6 months of aerobic exercise or stretching, which served as the control. The primary cognitive outcomes included measures of executive function (Trails B, Task Switching, Stroop, Self-ordered Pointing Test, and Verbal Fluency). Other outcomes included memory performance (Story Recall, List Learning), measures of cardiorespiratory fitness obtained via maximal-graded exercise treadmill test, glucose disposal during hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp, body fat, and fasting plasma levels of insulin, cortisol, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, insulin-like growth factor-1, amyloid-β (Aβ40 and Aβ42). Six months of aerobic exercise improved executive function (MANCOVA, p=0.04), cardiorespiratory fitness (MANOVA, p=0.03), and insulin sensitivity (p=0.05). Across all subjects, 6-month changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and insulin sensitivity were positively correlated (p=0.01). For Aβ42, plasma levels tended to decrease for the aerobic group relative to controls (p=0.07). The results of our study using rigorous controlled methodology suggest a cognition-enhancing effect of aerobic exercise for older glucose intolerant adults. Although replication in a larger sample is needed, our findings potentially have important therapeutic implications for a growing number of adults at increased risk of cognitive decline.

Int J Mol Med. 2010 Mar;25(3):337-46.

The combination of exercise training and alpha-lipoic acid treatment has therapeutic effects on the pathogenic phenotypes of Alzheimer's disease in NSE/APPsw-transgenic mice.

Cho JY, Um HS, Kang EB, Cho IH, Kim CH, Cho JS, Hwang DY.

Exercise Biochemistry Laboratory, Korea National Sport University, Seoul 138-763, Korea. chojy86@knsu.ac.kr


Exercise training was suggested as a practical therapeutic strategy for human subjects suffering from Alzheimer's disease (AD) in our previous study. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of combining exercise training with the administration of antioxidants on the pathological phenotype of AD. To accomplish this, non-transgenic mice (Non-Tg) and NSE/APPsw Tg mice were treated with alpha-lipoic acid and treadmill exercised for 16 weeks, after which their brains were evaluated to determine whether any changes in the pathological phenotype-related factors occurred. The results indicated that (i) the combination-applied (COMA) Tg group with exercise training (ET) and alpha-lipoic acid administration (LA) showed ameliorated spatial learning and memory compared to the sedentary (SED)-Tg and single-treatment groups; (ii) there were no differences in the level of Abeta-42 peptides across groups; (iii) the level of glucose transporter-1 and brain-derived neurotrophic factor proteins were highly increased in the COMA group, (iv) ET and LA did not induce a synergistic effect on the expression of heat shock protein-70 and apoptotic proteins including Bax and caspase-3; (v) the levels of SOD-1 and CAT suppressing oxidative stress were extensively higher in the COMA than in the single-treated groups and (vi) there were no significant differences across groups regarding these serum characteristics, although these levels were lower than the SED-Tg group. Taken together, these results suggest that the combination with ET and LA may contribute to protect the neuron injury induced by Abeta peptides and may be considered an effective therapeutic strategy for human subjects suffering from AD.

Neurobiol Dis. 2009 Sep;35(3):426-32. Epub 2009 Jun 12.

Effects of voluntary and forced exercise on plaque deposition, hippocampal volume, and behavior in the Tg2576 mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.

Yuede CM, Zimmerman SD, Dong H, Kling MJ, Bero AW, Holtzman DM, Timson BF, Csernansky JG.

Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, Campus Box 8134, 660 South Euclid Ave., St. Louis, MO 63110, USA. yuedec@psychiatry.wustl.edu


We examined the effects of voluntary (16 weeks of wheel running) and forced (16 weeks of treadmill running) exercise on memory-related behavior, hippocampal volume, thioflavine-stained plaque number, and soluble Abeta levels in brain tissue in the Tg2576 mouse model of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Voluntary running animals spent more time investigating a novel object in a recognition memory paradigm than all other groups. Also, voluntary running animals showed fewer thioflavine S stained plaques than all other groups, whereas forced running animals showed an intermediate number of plaques between voluntary running and sedentary animals. Both voluntary and forced running animals had larger hippocampal volumes than sedentary animals. However, levels of soluble Abeta-40 or Abeta-42 did not significantly differ among groups. The results indicate that voluntary exercise may be superior to forced exercise for reducing certain aspects of AD-like deficits - i.e., plaque deposition and memory impairment, in a mouse model of AD.

J Neurosci. 2005 Apr 27;25(17):4217-21.

Voluntary exercise decreases amyloid load in a transgenic model of Alzheimer's disease.

Adlard PA, Perreau VM, Pop V, Cotman CW.

Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California 92697-4540, USA.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder for which there are few therapeutics that affect the underlying disease mechanism. Recent epidemiological studies, however, suggest that lifestyle changes may slow the onset/progression of AD. Here we have used TgCRND8 mice to examine directly the interaction between exercise and the AD cascade. Five months of voluntary exercise resulted in a decrease in extracellular amyloid-beta (Abeta) plaques in the frontal cortex (38%; p = 0.018), the cortex at the level of the hippocampus (53%; p = 0.0003), and the hippocampus (40%; p = 0.06). This was associated with decreased cortical Abeta1-40 (35%; p = 0.005) and Abeta1-42 (22%; p = 0.04) (ELISA). The mechanism appears to be mediated by a change in the processing of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) after short-term exercise, because 1 month of activity decreased the proteolytic fragments of APP [for alpha-C-terminal fragment (alpha-CTF), 54% and p = 0.04; for beta-CTF, 35% and p = 0.03]. This effect was independent of mRNA/protein changes in neprilysin and insulin-degrading enzyme and, instead, may involve neuronal metabolism changes that are known to affect APP processing and to be regulated by exercise. Long-term exercise also enhanced the rate of learning of TgCRND8 animals in the Morris water maze, with significant (p < 0.02) reductions in escape latencies over the first 3 (of 6) trial days. In support of existing epidemiological studies, this investigation demonstrates that exercise is a simple behavioral intervention sufficient to inhibit the normal progression of AD-like neuropathology in the TgCRND8 mouse model.

Exp Gerontol. 2010 Oct 15. [Epub ahead of print]

Mild stress facilitates learning and exercise improves retention in aged mice.

Adlard PA, Engesser-Cesar C, Cotman CW.

Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia, University of California Irvine, 1226 Gillespie N.R.F., Irvine, CA 92697-4540, United States.


While chronic or severe stress generally has negative consequences in the brain, moderate stress has been shown to facilitate learning in young animals. It is unknown if stress facilitates or impairs learning in an aged animal. In this study, the effect of mild stress on learning and task retention (1week later) was assessed in young and aged mice. In addition, because exercise can counteract negative effects of stress and facilitate learning, the effect of 1 week of voluntary exercise on task retention was assessed. Regulation of the learning/memory related genes BDNF exon VI, synapsin, MAPK, and CRFR1 were also examined in the hippocampus using real-time PCR. Results of this study demonstrate that mild stress 24h prior to the learning test improved performance in aged, but not young animals. However, exercise for 1 week between tests improved the performance of both groups of animals in the retention task. In aged, but not young animals, all four genes increased significantly after exercise. Thus, in aged animals mild stress facilitates learning and the retention of this task is improved by voluntary exercise.