Modulation of synaptic plasticity by exercise


Synaptic plasticity is an experience-dependent process that results in long-lasting changes in synaptic communication. This phenomenon stimulates structural, molecular, and genetic changes in the brain and is the leading biological model for learning and memory processes. Synapses are able to show persistent increases in synaptic strength, or long-term potentiation (LTP), as well as persistent decreases in synaptic strength, known as long-term depression (LTD). Understanding the complex interactions that regulate these activity-dependent processes can provide insight for the development of strategies to improve cognitive function. Twenty years ago, we provided the first evidence indicating that aerobic exercise can reliably enhance LTP, and went on to show that it can also regulate some of the mechanisms involved in LTD induction. Since then, several laboratories have confirmed and expanded these findings, helping to identify different molecular mechanisms involved in exercise-mediated changes in synaptic efficacy. This chapter reviews this material and shows how these experimental findings may prove valuable for alleviating the burden of neurodegenerative diseases in an aging population.

International Review of Neurobiology, 147, 295-322.