Growth factors as mediators of exercise actions on the brain.

Llorens-Martín M, Torres-Alemán I, Trejo JL.

Neuromolecular Medicine.
doi: 10.1007/s12017-008-8026-1.

Physical exercise has long been recognized as highly beneficial for brain and body health. The molecular mechanisms responsible for translation of exercise stimuli in the brain have claimed attention due to mounting evidence for the neuroprotective actions of the exercise and its positive effects in preventing both ageing and neurodegenerative disease. These molecular mediators are currently under investigation with new tools able to yield deep insights into the neurobiology of exercise. In the present work we focus on the evidence pertaining to the mediation of exercise effects by insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1), as recent reports suggest that this growth factor shows brain area-specific, temporal rank-sensitive, and behavioural task-dependent features in response to exercise.

The effects of exercise on spatial learning and anxiety-like behavior are mediated by an IGF-I-dependent mechanism related to hippocampal neurogenesis.

Trejo JL, Llorens-Martín MV, Torres-Alemán I.

Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience.
doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2007.10.016.

Knowledge about the effects of physical exercise on brain is accumulating although the mechanisms through which exercise exerts these actions remain largely unknown. A possible involvement of adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) in the effects of exercise is debated while the physiological and pathological significance of AHN is under intense scrutiny. Recently, both neurogenesis-dependent and independent mechanisms have been shown to mediate the effects of physical exercise on spatial learning and anxiety-like behaviors. Taking advantage that the stimulating effects of exercise on AHN depend among others, on serum insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), we now examined whether the behavioral effects of running exercise are related to variations in hippocampal neurogenesis, by either increasing or decreasing it according to serum IGF-I levels. Mutant mice with low levels of serum IGF-I (LID mice) had reduced AHN together with impaired spatial learning. These deficits were not improved by running. However, administration of exogenous IGF-I ameliorated the cognitive deficit and restored AHN in LID mice. We also examined the effect of exercise in LID mice in the novelty-suppressed feeding test, a measure of anxiety-like behavior in laboratory animals. Normal mice, but not LID mice, showed reduced anxiety after exercise in this test. However, after exercise, LID mice did show improvement in the forced swim test, a measure of behavioral despair. Thus, many, but not all of the beneficial effects of exercise on brain function depend on circulating levels of IGF-I and are associated to increased hippocampal neurogenesis, including improved cognition and reduced anxiety.


Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa (CBMSO) Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Campus de Cantoblanco)
C/ Nicolás Cabrera 1 - 28049 Madrid (Spain)

María Llorens-Martín (PI)
+34 911964632