Affiliations: [a] Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation and Division of Cognitive Neurology, Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center – Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
| [b] Department of Physical Therapy, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Coral Gables, FL, USA
| [c] Institut Guttman de Neurorehabilitació, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, Badalona, Barcelona, Spain
Corresponding author: Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, PhD, Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Ave., Boston, MA 02215, USA. Tel.: +1 617 667 0307; Fax: +1 617 975 5322; E-mail: [email protected].
Abstract: Background:Exercise-mediated cognitive improvements can be at least partly attributed to neuroplastic changes in the nervous system, and may be influenced by the Val66Met polymorphism of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can be used to assess mechanisms of plasticity in humans noninvasively. Objectives:To assess the feasibility of evaluating the effects of short-term regular exercise on cognitive performance, and to evaluate the relationship between these effects, TMS measures of plasticity, and BDNF Met carrier status in young healthy sedentary adults. Methods:Of the 19 participants who enrolled in the study, 14 sedentary adults (12 females, age mean±SD, 27±12.3 yr), with less than two sessions of physical exercise in the preceding 2 months, completed an aerobic exercise regimen including four 30-min daily sessions per week for 4 weeks (for a total of 16 sessions) delivered at 55–64% of age-predicted maximal heart rate. Prior to and following the exercise regimen, participants performed a neuropsychological test battery and an intermittent theta-burst TMS plasticity protocol. Results:All participants completed the various measures and adhered to the exercise regimen. There were no complications and the results obtained were reliable. The feasibility of the approach is thus well established. Between-group comparisons of pre-post change revealed trends toward increased performance on the Stroop and faster reaction times in the CPT detectability in the Val66Val subgroup (p = 0.07 and p = 0.08), and a reduction in TBS-induced modulation of TMS responses in Met carriers (p = 0.07). Conclusion:Acute exercise interventions in sedentary adults can be meaningfully conducted along with cognitive and neurophysiologic measures to assess behavioral and neurobiological effects and assessment of BDNF polymorphism. TMS measures of plasticity can be used to evaluate the effects of exercise on brain plasticity, and relate them to neuropsychological measures of cognition.
Keywords: Aerobic exercise, transcranial magnetic stimulation, cognition, iTBS, plasticity, BDNF