Exercise, experience and the aging brain

James D. Churchill, Roberto Galvez, Stanley Colcombe, Rodney A. Swain, Arthur F. Kramer, William T. Greenough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While limited research is available, evidence indicates that physical and mental activity influence the aging process. Human data show that executive functions of the type associated with frontal lobe and hippocampal regions of the brain may be selectively maintained or enhanced in humans with higher levels of fitness. Similarly enhanced performance is observed in aged animals exposed to elevated physical and mental demand and it appears that the vascular component of the brain response may be driven by physical activity whereas the neuronal component may reflect learning. Recent results have implicated neurogenesis, at least in the hippocampus, as a component of the brain response to exercise, with learning enhancing survival of these neurons. Non-neuronal tissues also respond to experience in the mature brain, indicating that the brain reflects both its recent and its longer history of experience. Preliminary measures of brain function hold promise of increased interaction between human and animal researchers and a better understanding of the substrates of experience effects on behavioral performance in aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)941-955
Number of pages15
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2002


  • Activity dependent
  • Angiogenesis
  • Cognitive
  • Executive function
  • Frontal cortex
  • Glia
  • Hippocampus
  • Memory
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neuron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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