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Hippocampus. 2009 Oct;19(10):973-80. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20631.

Exercise enhances hippocampal-dependent learning in the rat: evidence for a BDNF-related mechanism.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, and Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.


Short periods of forced exercise have been reported to selectively induce enhancements in hippocampal-dependent cognitive function, possibly via brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-mediated mechanisms. In this study, we report that 1 week of treadmill running significantly enhanced both object displacement (spatial) and object substitution (nonspatial) learning. These behavioral changes were accompanied by increased expression of BDNF protein in the dentate gyrus, hippocampus, and perirhinal cortex. The effects of exercise on object substitution were mimicked by intracerebroventricular injection of BDNF protein. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that exercise has the potential to enhance cognitive function in young healthy rats, possibly via a mechanism involving increased BDNF expression in specific brain regions.

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