Neurobiological markers of exercise-related brain plasticity in older adults

Michelle W. Voss, Kirk I. Erickson, Ruchika Shaurya Prakash, Laura Chaddock, Jennifer S. Kim, Heloisa Alves, Amanda Szabo, Siobhan M. Phillips, Thomas R. Wójcicki, Emily L. Mailey, Erin A. Olson, Neha Gothe, Victoria J. Vieira-Potter, Stephen A. Martin, Brandt D. Pence, Marc D. Cook, Jeffrey A. Woods, Edward McAuley, Arthur F Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study examined how a randomized one-year aerobic exercise program for healthy older adults would affect serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), insulin-like growth factor type 1 (IGF-1), and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) - putative markers of exercise-induced benefits on brain function. The study also examined whether (a) change in the concentration of these growth factors was associated with alterations in functional connectivity following exercise, and (b) the extent to which pre-intervention growth factor levels were associated with training-related changes in functional connectivity. In 65 participants (mean age = 66.4), we found that although there were no group-level changes in growth factors as a function of the intervention, increased temporal lobe connectivity between the bilateral parahippocampus and the bilateral middle temporal gyrus was associated with increased BDNF, IGF-1, and VEGF for an aerobic walking group but not for a non-aerobic control group, and greater pre-intervention VEGF was associated with greater training-related increases in this functional connection. Results are consistent with animal models of exercise and the brain, but are the first to show in humans that exercise-induced increases in temporal lobe functional connectivity are associated with changes in growth factors and may be augmented by greater baseline VEGF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-99
Number of pages10
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Aerobic fitness
  • Aging
  • Default mode network
  • Exercise
  • FMRI
  • Functional connectivity
  • Growth factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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