Aerobic exercise and a BDNF-mimetic therapy rescue learning and memory in a mouse model of Down syndrome

Sci Rep. 2017 Dec 4;7(1):16825. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-17201-8.


Down syndrome (DS) is caused by the triplication of human chromosome 21 and represents the most frequent genetic cause of intellectual disability. The trisomic Ts65Dn mouse model of DS shows synaptic deficits and reproduces the essential cognitive disabilities of the human syndrome. Aerobic exercise improved various neurophysiological dysfunctions in Ts65Dn mice, including hippocampal synaptic deficits, by promoting synaptogenesis and neurotransmission at glutamatergic terminals. Most importantly, the same intervention also prompted the recovery of hippocampal adult neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity and restored cognitive performance in trisomic mice. Additionally, the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) was markedly decreased in the hippocampus of patients with DS. Since the positive effect of exercise was paralleled by increased BDNF expression in trisomic mice, we investigated the effectiveness of a BDNF-mimetic treatment with 7,8-dihydroxyflavone at alleviating intellectual disabilities in the DS model. Pharmacological stimulation of BDNF signaling rescued synaptic plasticity and memory deficits in Ts65Dn mice. Based on our findings, Ts65Dn mice benefit from interventions aimed at promoting brain plasticity, and we provide evidence that BDNF signaling represents a potentially new pharmacological target for treatments aimed at rescuing cognitive disabilities in patients with DS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Down Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Down Syndrome / pathology*
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / drug effects
  • Female
  • Flavones / pharmacology*
  • Flavones / therapeutic use
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Learning / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • 6,7-dihydroxyflavone
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Flavones