Physical exercise, neuroplasticity, spatial learning and memory

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2016 Mar;73(5):975-83. doi: 10.1007/s00018-015-2102-0. Epub 2015 Dec 8.


There has long been discussion regarding the positive effects of physical exercise on brain activity. However, physical exercise has only recently begun to receive the attention of the scientific community, with major interest in its effects on the cognitive functions, spatial learning and memory, as a non-drug method of maintaining brain health and treating neurodegenerative and/or psychiatric conditions. In humans, several studies have shown the beneficial effects of aerobic and resistance exercises in adult and geriatric populations. More recently, studies employing animal models have attempted to elucidate the mechanisms underlying neuroplasticity related to physical exercise-induced spatial learning and memory improvement, even under neurodegenerative conditions. In an attempt to clarify these issues, the present review aims to discuss the role of physical exercise in the improvement of spatial learning and memory and the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in neuroplasticity.

Keywords: Aerobic exercise; Brain; Cognition; Memory; Neuroplasticity; Resistance exercise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Memory*
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Resistance Training
  • Spatial Learning*