Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 493–503 | Cite as

Biological Mechanisms of Physical Activity in Preventing Cognitive Decline

  • I. Lista
  • G. SorrentinoEmail author
Review Paper


In order to guarantee better conditions for competition, the nervous system has developed not only mechanisms controlling muscle effectors, but also retrograde systems that, starting from peripheral structures, may influence brain functions. Under such perspective, physical activity could play an important role in influencing cognitive brain functions including learning and memory. The results of epidemiological studies (cross-sectional, prospective and retrospective) support a positive relationship between cognition and physical activities. Recent meta-analysis confirmed a significant effect of exercise on cognitive functions. However, the biological mechanisms that underlie such beneficial effects are still to be completely elucidated. They include supramolecular mechanisms (e.g. neurogenesis, synaptogenesis, and angiogenesis) which, in turn, are controlled by molecular mechanisms, such as BDNF, IGF-1, hormone and second messengers.


Physical activity Exercise Cognitive decline Prevention Neurogenesis Synaptogenesis Angiogenesis BDNF Alzheimer’s disease 



This study was sponsored by grants from MIUR (PRIN); Regione Campania (L.R. 5/02), Italy; Progetto Strategico Alzheimer (Ministero della Salute-Regione Lazio) Italy; and Provincia di Salerno (Assessorato allo Sport, Salute e Qualità della Vita) Italy.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Naples Parthenope, Istituto di diagnosi e cura Hermitage CapodimonteNaplesItaly
  2. 2.Faculty of Motor SciencesUniversity of Naples ParthenopeNaplesItaly

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