Interaction between serum BDNF and aerobic fitness predicts recognition memory in healthy young adults.Behav Brain Res. 2014 Feb 01; 259:302-12.BB
Convergent evidence from human and non-human animal studies suggests aerobic exercise and increased aerobic capacity may be beneficial for brain health and cognition. It is thought growth factors may mediate this putative relationship, particularly by augmenting plasticity mechanisms in the hippocampus, a brain region critical for learning and memory. Among these factors, glucocorticoids, brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), hormones that have considerable and diverse physiological importance, are thought to effect normal and exercise-induced hippocampal plasticity. Despite these predictions, relatively few published human studies have tested hypotheses that relate exercise and fitness to the hippocampus, and none have considered the potential links to all of these hormonal components. Here we present cross-sectional data from a study of recognition memory; serum BDNF, cortisol, IGF-1, and VEGF levels; and aerobic capacity in healthy young adults. We measured circulating levels of these hormones together with performance on a recognition memory task, and a standard graded treadmill test of aerobic fitness. Regression analyses demonstrated BDNF and aerobic fitness predict recognition memory in an interactive manner. In addition, IGF-1 was positively associated with aerobic fitness, but not with recognition memory. Our results may suggest an exercise adaptation-related change in the BDNF dose-response curve that relates to hippocampal memory.