Low-intensity treadmill exercise and/or bright light promote neurogenesis in adult rat brain

Neural Regen Res. 2013 Apr 5;8(10):922-9. doi: 10.3969/j.issn.1673-5374.2013.10.007.


The hippocampus is a brain region responsible for learning and memory functions. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of low-intensity exercise and bright light exposure on neurogenesis and brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression in adult rat hippocampus. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned to control, exercise, light, or exercise + light groups (n = 9 per group). The rats in the exercise group were subjected to treadmill exercise (5 days per week, 30 minutes per day, over a 4-week period), the light group rats were irradiated (5 days per week, 30 minutes per day, 10 000 lx, over a 4-week period), the exercise + light group rats were subjected to treadmill exercise in combination with bright light exposure, and the control group rats remained sedentary over a 4-week period. Compared with the control group, there was a significant increase in neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus of rats in the exercise, light, and exercise + light groups. Moreover, the expression level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the rat hippocampal dentate gyrus was significantly higher in the exercise group and light group than that in the control group. Interestingly, there was no significant difference in brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression between the control group and exercise + light group. These results indicate that low-intensity treadmill exercise (first 5 minutes at a speed of 2 m/min, second 5 minutes at a speed of 5 m/min, and the last 20 minutes at a speed of 8 m/min) or bright-light exposure therapy induces positive biochemical changes in the brain. In view of these findings, we propose that moderate exercise or exposure to sunlight during childhood can be beneficial for neural development.

Keywords: brain-derived neurotrophic factor; bright light; childhood; exercise; grants-supported paper; hippocampus; neural regeneration; neurogenesis; neuroregeneration; neurorehabilitation.