Entorhinal volume, aerobic fitness, and recognition memory in healthy young adults: A voxel-based morphometry study

Neuroimage. 2016 Feb 1:126:229-38. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.11.049. Epub 2015 Nov 26.


Converging evidence supports the hypothesis effects of aerobic exercise and environmental enrichment are beneficial for cognition, in particular for hippocampus-supported learning and memory. Recent work in humans suggests that exercise training induces changes in hippocampal volume, but it is not known if aerobic exercise and fitness also impact the entorhinal cortex. In animal models, aerobic exercise increases expression of growth factors, including brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This exercise-enhanced expression of growth hormones may boost synaptic plasticity, and neuronal survival and differentiation, potentially supporting function and structure in brain areas including but not limited to the hippocampus. Here, using voxel based morphometry and a standard graded treadmill test to determine cardio-respiratory fitness (Bruce protocol; ·VO2 max), we examined if entorhinal and hippocampal volumes were associated with cardio-respiratory fitness in healthy young adults (N=33). In addition, we examined if volumes were modulated by recognition memory performance and by serum BDNF, a putative marker of synaptic plasticity. Our results show a positive association between volume in right entorhinal cortex and cardio-respiratory fitness. In addition, average gray matter volume in the entorhinal cortex, bilaterally, was positively associated with memory performance. These data extend prior work on the cerebral effects of aerobic exercise and fitness to the entorhinal cortex in healthy young adults thus providing compelling evidence for a relationship between aerobic fitness and structure of the medial temporal lobe memory system.

Keywords: Cardiovascular fitness; Hippocampus; Medial temporal lobes; Neurotrophins; Recognition memory.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood*
  • Entorhinal Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • BDNF protein, human