On the Run for Hippocampal Plasticity

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2018 Apr 2;8(4):a029736. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a029736.


Accumulating research in rodents and humans indicates that exercise benefits brain function and may prevent or delay onset of neurodegenerative conditions. In particular, exercise modifies the structure and function of the hippocampus, a brain area important for learning and memory. This review addresses the central and peripheral mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of exercise on the hippocampus. We focus on running-induced changes in adult hippocampal neurogenesis, neural circuitry, neurotrophins, synaptic plasticity, neurotransmitters, and vasculature. The role of peripheral factors in hippocampal plasticity is also highlighted. We discuss recent evidence that systemic factors released from peripheral organs such as muscle (myokines), liver (hepatokines), and adipose tissue (adipokines) during exercise contribute to hippocampal neurotrophin and neurogenesis levels, and memory function. A comprehensive understanding of the body-brain axis is needed to elucidate how exercise improves hippocampal plasticity and cognition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Hippocampus / blood supply
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Liver / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Nerve Growth Factors