The effects of hormones and physical exercise on hippocampal structural plasticity

Front Neuroendocrinol. 2016 Apr;41:23-43. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2016.03.001. Epub 2016 Mar 14.


The hippocampus plays an integral role in certain aspects of cognition. Hippocampal structural plasticity and in particular adult hippocampal neurogenesis can be influenced by several intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Here we review how hormones (i.e., intrinsic modulators) and physical exercise (i.e., an extrinsic modulator) can differentially modulate hippocampal plasticity in general and adult hippocampal neurogenesis in particular. Specifically, we provide an overview of the effects of sex hormones, stress hormones, and metabolic hormones on hippocampal structural plasticity and adult hippocampal neurogenesis. In addition, we also discuss how physical exercise modulates these forms of hippocampal plasticity, giving particular emphasis on how this modulation can be affected by variables such as exercise regime, duration, and intensity. Understanding the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the modulation of hippocampal structural plasticity by intrinsic and extrinsic factors will impact the design of new therapeutic approaches aimed at restoring hippocampal plasticity following brain injury or neurodegeneration.

Keywords: Adult neurogenesis; Hippocampus; Hormones; Physical exercise; Stress; Structural plasticity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / growth & development
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Hormones / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*


  • Hormones

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