Exercise-induced noradrenergic activation enhances memory consolidation in both normal aging and patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment

J Alzheimers Dis. 2012;32(4):1011-8. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2012-121078.


Post-trial pharmacological activation of the noradrenergic system can facilitate memory consolidation. Because exercise activates the locus coeruleus and increases brain norepinephrine release, we hypothesized that post-trial exercise could function as a natural stimulus to enhance memory consolidation. We investigated this in amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) and cognitively normal elderly individuals by examining the effects of an acute bout of post-learning, aerobic exercise (6 minutes at 70% VO2 max on a stationary bicycle) on memory for some emotional images. Exercise significantly elevated endogenous norepinephrine (measured via the biomarker, salivary alpha-amylase) in both aMCI patients and controls. Additionally, exercise retrogradely enhanced memory in both aMCI patients and controls. Acute exercise that activates the noradrenergic system may serve as a beneficial, natural, and practical therapeutic intervention for cognitive decline in the aging population.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Neurons / metabolism
  • Aged
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Amnesia / metabolism
  • Amnesia / psychology
  • Amnesia / therapy
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / therapy
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism*
  • Salivary alpha-Amylases / analysis
  • Salivary alpha-Amylases / metabolism*


  • Salivary alpha-Amylases
  • Norepinephrine