A new perspective of the hippocampus in the origin of exercise–brain interactions

Catarina Rendeiro, Justin S. Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Exercising regularly is a highly effective strategy for maintaining cognitive health throughout the lifespan. Over the last 20 years, many molecular, physiological and structural changes have been documented in response to aerobic exercise training in humans and animals, particularly in the hippocampus. However, how exercise produces such neurological changes remains elusive. A recent line of investigation has suggested that muscle-derived circulating factors cross into the brain and may be the key agents driving enhancement in synaptic plasticity and hippocampal neurogenesis from aerobic exercise. Alternatively, or concurrently, the signals might originate from within the brain itself. Physical activity also produces instantaneous and robust neuronal activation of the hippocampal formation and the generation of theta oscillations which are closely correlated with the force of movements. The repeated acute activation of the hippocampus during physical movement is likely critical for inducing the long-term neuroadaptations from exercise. Here we review the evidence which establishes the association between physical movement and hippocampal neuronal activation and discuss implications for long-term benefits of physical activity on brain function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2527-2545
Number of pages19
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • Exercise
  • Hippocampus
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Movement
  • Muscle
  • Myokines
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neuronal activation
  • Physical activity
  • Plasticity
  • Spatial learning
  • Theta rhythm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • General Neuroscience
  • Histology


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