Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 221, Issue 3, pp 1353–1363 | Cite as

The hippocampus and exercise: histological correlates of MR-detected volume changes

  • Sarah V. Biedermann
  • Johannes FussEmail author
  • Jörg Steinle
  • Matthias K. Auer
  • Christof Dormann
  • Claudia Falfán-Melgoza
  • Gabriele Ende
  • Peter Gass
  • Wolfgang Weber-Fahr
Original Article


Growing evidence indicates that physical exercise increases hippocampal volume. This has consistently been shown in mice and men using magnetic resonance imaging. On the other hand, histological studies have reported profound alterations on a cellular level including increased adult hippocampal neurogenesis after exercise. A combined investigation of both phenomena has not been documented so far although a causal role of adult neurogenesis for increased hippocampal volume has been suggested before. We investigated 20 voluntary wheel running and 20 sedentary mice after a period of 2 month voluntary wheel running. Half of each group received focalized hippocampal irradiation to inhibit neurogenesis prior to wheel running. Structural MRI and histological investigations concerning newborn neurons (DCX), glial cells (GFAP), microglia, proliferating and pyknotic cells, neuronal activation, as well as blood vessel density and arborisation were performed. In a regression model, neurogenesis was the marker best explaining hippocampal gray matter volume. Individual analyses showed a positive correlation of gray matter volume with DCX-positive newborn neurons in the subgroups, too. GFAP-positive cells significantly interacted with gray matter volume with a positive correlation in sham-irradiated mice and no correlation in irradiated mice. Although neurogenesis appears to be an important marker of higher hippocampal gray matter volume, a monocausal relationship was not indicated, requesting further investigations.


Neurogenesis Magnetic resonance imaging Voxel-based morphometry Exercise Hippocampus Histology 



This work was supported in part by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to Peter Gass (SFB636-B3) and Gabriele Ende (SFB636-Z3). We gratefully thank Prof. Dr. Klaus-Josef Weber for providing the irradiation equipment.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah V. Biedermann
    • 1
    • 2
  • Johannes Fuss
    • 3
    Email author
  • Jörg Steinle
    • 3
  • Matthias K. Auer
    • 3
    • 4
  • Christof Dormann
    • 3
  • Claudia Falfán-Melgoza
    • 2
  • Gabriele Ende
    • 2
  • Peter Gass
    • 3
  • Wolfgang Weber-Fahr
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Departments of Neuroimaging and Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim (ZI), RG Translational ImagingUniversity of HeidelbergMannheimGermany
  2. 2.Department of Neuroimaging, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim (ZI)University of HeidelbergMannheimGermany
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim (ZI), RG Animal Models in PsychiatryUniversity of HeidelbergMannheimGermany
  4. 4.Department of EndocrinologyMax Planck Institute of PsychiatryMunichGermany

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