Running Throughout Middle-Age Improves Memory Function, Hippocampal Neurogenesis, and BDNF Levels in Female C57BL/6J Mice

Dev Neurobiol. 2012 Jun;72(6):943-52. doi: 10.1002/dneu.22009.


Age-related memory loss is considered to commence at middle-age and coincides with reduced adult hippocampal neurogenesis and neurotrophin levels. Consistent physical activity at midlife may preserve brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, new cell genesis, and learning. In the present study, 9-month-old female C57Bl/6J mice were housed with or without a running wheel and injected with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) to label newborn cells. Morris water maze learning, open field activity and rotarod behavior were tested 1 and 6 months after exercise onset. Here we show that long-term running improved retention of spatial memory and modestly enhanced rotarod performance at 15 months of age. Both hippocampal neurogenesis and mature BDNF peptide levels were elevated after long-term running. Thus, regular exercise from the onset and during middle-age may maintain brain function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Cell Count
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Maze Learning / physiology*
  • Memory*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology
  • Running


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor