Running induces widespread structural alterations in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex

Hippocampus. 2007;17(11):1017-22. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20348.


Physical activity enhances hippocampal function but its effects on neuronal structure remain relatively unexplored outside of the dentate gyrus. Using Golgi impregnation and the lipophilic tracer DiI, we show that long-term voluntary running increases the density of dendritic spines in the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus of adult rats. Exercise was associated with increased dendritic spine density not only in granule neurons of the dentate gyrus, but also in CA1 pyramidal neurons, and in layer III pyramidal neurons of the entorhinal cortex. In the CA1 region, changes in dendritic spine density are accompanied by changes in dendritic arborization and alterations in the morphology of individual spines. These findings suggest that physical activity exerts pervasive effects on neuronal morphology in the hippocampus and one of its afferent populations. These structural changes may contribute to running-induced changes in cognitive function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbocyanines
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology
  • Dendritic Spines / ultrastructure
  • Entorhinal Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Entorhinal Cortex / physiology*
  • Entorhinal Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / ultrastructure
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / ultrastructure
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology
  • Pyramidal Cells / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Running / physiology*


  • Carbocyanines
  • carbocyanine dye DiIC12(3)