Effects of exercise on structural and functional plasticity in the aging hippocampus

In the past 10 years we have come to adopt a more dynamic view of the brain. While we used to believe that the adult brain did not produce new neurons, we now know that new neurons are produced continually through out our lives, a process known as neurogenesis. In conjunction with neurogenesis, both new and existing cells also possess the capacity to alter the number and types of connections they make with other cells, a process called synaptogenesis. These processes can dramatically affect our cognitive processing capacities, and current research indicates that abnormalities in either neurogenesis and/or synaptogenesis are linked to a variety of neurological disorders ranging from those normally associated with adulthood (i.e. Alzheimer’s disease. Major depression, and Schizophrenia), to those that are more developmental in nature (i.e. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Fragile-X Syndrome, Rett’s Syndrome. Dr. Brian Christie’s research has targeted how exercise can facilitate learning performance, synaptic plasticity, neurogenesis and synaptogenesis in the brain. He has shown that exercise can induce long-term structural and functional changes in the connections between brain cells. His current work will provide greater detail about the mechanisms underlying the marked effects of exercise, particularly in the aging brain. A deeper understanding of these mechanisms may ultimately result in new approaches for establishing, maintaining, and even enhancing brain cells and their connections as we age.