Accumulating evidence finds that exercise can improve brain function and delay or prevent the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. While the underlying mechanisms remain unclear, recent research suggests that exercise-induced activation of peripheral systems such as muscle, gut, liver, and adipose tissue may affect neural plasticity. A special issue of Brain Plasticity presents new research and insights on neural plasticity and the role of peripheral factors in cognitive health.

At least a dozen peripheral factors have been identified that affect neurotrophin levels, adult neurogenesis, inflammation, synaptic plasticity, and memory function.
Co-Guest Editor and journal Editor-in-Chief Henriette van Praag, PhD, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine and Brain Institute, Florida Atlantic University. 

CTSB and BDNF are promising therapeutic targets that may delay the onset and progression of cognitive impairments. Future studies are needed to elucidate the mechanisms regulating their release, processing, and fiber-type specific role in skeletal muscle tissue.
lead investigator Jacob M. Haus, PhD, School of Kinesiology, University of Michigan.

The special issue also shares new research that CTSB may play a role in cognitive control by modulating processing speed, and that both moderate-intensity and high-intensity interval exercise increase serum BDNF levels and working memory performance in young adult females.

Individual findings suggest that the immune response to exercise might be increased in females, but additional studies are needed. Cross-disciplinary research integrating neuroscience, exercise physiology, and geroscience is needed to explain sex differences in cognitive aging and age-related neurodegenerative disease, and to develop novel therapeutic targets.
Dr. Cortes and Dr. De Miguel


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