Short bouts of mild-intensity physical exercise improve spatial learning and memory in aging rats: involvement of hippocampal plasticity via AKT, CREB and BDNF signaling

Mech Ageing Dev. Nov-Dec 2011;132(11-12):560-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2011.09.005. Epub 2011 Oct 1.

Abstract

In the present study, we investigated whether mild-intensity physical exercise represents a successful strategy to enhance spatial learning and memory and hippocampal plasticity in aging rats, as previously described for long-term exposure to running wheel or treadmill exercise. Aging Wistar rats were submitted to short bouts (4-6 min) of exercise treadmill during five consecutive weeks. This mild-intensity exercise program increased muscle oxygen consumption by soleus and heart in aging rats and reversed age-related long-term spatial learning and memory impairments evaluated in the water maze and step-down inhibitory avoidance tasks. Remarkably, the observed cognitive-enhancing properties of short bouts of exercise were accompanied by the activation of serine/threonine protein kinase (AKT) and cAMP response element binding (CREB) pro-survival signaling that culminates in the marked increase on the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mRNA expression and BDNF protein levels on the hippocampus of aging rats. Altogether, these results indicate that short bouts of exercise represent a viable behavioral strategy to improve cognition and synaptic plasticity in aging rats which should be taken into account in further studies addressing the effects of physical exercise in aging subjects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / genetics
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / physiology
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / physiology
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / psychology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / physiology
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Signal Transduction
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology

Substances

  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Creb1 protein, mouse
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt