Physical exercise: bulking up neurogenesis in human adults

Lei, Xinjuan; Wu, Yajun; Xu, MengMeng; Jones, Odell D.; Ma, Jianjie; Xu, Xuehong

Whether neurogenesis occurs in the adult human brain has been a long-debated topic fueled by conflicting data both for and against neurogenesis in the mature brain. Recent reports from two independent teams may have indubitably proven that adult, hippocampal neurogenesis persists throughout the human lifespan. Llorens-Martín et al. found that thousands of immature, neurogenesis related, doublecortin-positive (DCX+) labelled neurons can be detected in the human dentate gyrus (DG) up to the eighth decade of life. While the presence of these DCX+ neurons decrease with age, they are significantly decrease in patient with Alzheimer’s disease. Another group have also found mammalian embryonic Hopx+ precursors to persist beyond the early development stage as quiescent Hopx+ radial glial-like neural progenitors during early postnatal period, then as Hopx+ adult dentate neural progenitors. Together, the findings from these two groups suggest that unlike the previously thought, neurogenesis and neuroplasticity can occur well into adulthood in some capacity, at least in the hippocampus. These recent findings that neurogenesis can occur beyond development have brought into questions whether physical exercise can be shown to promote neurogenesis and brain health, as it has been shown to promote the function of other organ systems. Some data has already shown physical exercise to induce adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) as demonstrated by restoration of cognitive functions, improvement of synaptic plasticity, and enhancement of angiogenesis. A large-scale meta-analysis has also demonstrated that 45–60 min of moderate-intensity physical exercise to dramatically improve cognitive functions in human subjects over the age of 50. Given these convergent developments in our understanding of neurogenesis and exercise induced improvement in cognitive function, we speculate that hippocampal neurogenesis can be promoted by physical exercise and discuss the current molecular evidence supporting the likely molecular pathways involved.


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Cell & Bioscience

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Published Here
September 22, 2023


Neurogenesis, Adult, Physical exercise, Cognitive function