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GeroScience

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 407–417 | Cite as

Multimodal physical activity increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels and improves cognition in institutionalized older women

  • Kelem Vedovelli
  • Bruno Lima Giacobbo
  • Márcio Silveira Corrêa
  • Andréa Wieck
  • Irani Iracema de Lima Argimon
  • Elke BrombergEmail author
Original Article

Abstract

Physical activity has been proposed as a promising intervention to improve cognition and decrease the risk of dementia in older adults. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) appears to mediate, at least partially, these effects of exercise. However, intervention studies of the effects of multimodal exercises on cognition and BDNF levels are scarce and composed by small samples. Thus, the generalization of the conclusions of these studies depends on the reproducibility of the results. In order to contribute to the knowledge on the field, the present study evaluated the effects of a physical activity intervention composed by muscle strengthening and aerobic conditioning on BDNF levels and cognition in older women. Independent and non-demented subjects (≥75 years) were assigned to a 3-month physical activity intervention (n = 22, 60 min exercise sessions three times a week) or to a control condition (n = 10, no exercise). Clinical (anxiety and depression symptoms), neuropsychological (Digit Span, Stroop, Trail Making, and Contextual Memory tests), physical (upper and lower limb strength, aerobic conditioning), and physiological (serum BDNF) parameters were evaluated immediately before, 1 month, and 3 months after starting intervention. Results indicated that controls had stable levels for all measured variables, whereas the intervention group improved on physical fitness, depressive symptoms, cognitive performance, and BDNF levels. Moreover, a linear regression identified an association between aerobic conditioning and BDNF levels. In conclusion, combined muscle strengthening and aerobic conditioning was able to improve cognitive performance and increase BDNF levels. Aerobic conditioning seems to be an important mediator of these outcomes.

Keywords

BDNF Physical activity Depression symptom Cognitive performance 

Notes

Acknowledgments

E. Bromberg and I.I.L. Argimon are National Counsel of Technological and Scientific Development (CNPq) research fellows. K. Vedovelli has a Research Support Foundation of Rio Grande do Sul (FAPERGS)/Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES) fellowship, and B.L. Giacobbo, M.S. Corrêa, and A. Wieck have a CAPES fellowship.

Compliance with ethical standards

The study was conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and approved by the Research and Ethics Committee of Pontifical Catholic University, Porto Alegre, Brazil. All participants gave their written informed consent.

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Copyright information

© American Aging Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Biology and Development of the Nervous System, Faculty of BiosciencesPontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil
  2. 2.Graduate Program in Biomedical GerontologyPontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil
  3. 3.National Institute for Translational Medicine (INCT-TM)Porto AlegreBrazil
  4. 4.Graduate Program in Cellular and Molecular BiologyPontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil
  5. 5.Laboratory of Immunosenescence, Institute of Biomedical ResearchPontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil

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