Physical exercise has long been recognized as an effective and economic strategy to promote brain health in humans. The cellular and structural changes in the brains of exercised animals, including enhancements of neurogenesis and synaptogenesis, dendritic remodeling, and synaptic plasticity, have been considered as the key biological alterations accounting for exercise-elicited benefits to brain health. However, what transduces body movements into the above-mentioned changes remains largely unknown. Emerging theories indicate that physical activity triggers the release of various factors into the circulation from skeletal muscle (neurotrophins, myokines, and cytokines) and/or adipose tissue (adipokines). In this chapter, we review several of these molecules that are potentially implicated in this process, including neurotrophic factors (BDNF, IGF-1, and VEGF), adipokines (adiponectin and irisin), and myokines/cytokines (IL-15). The relationship, either causal or concomitant, between levels of these molecules (particularly in the blood) and brain function after exercise may help to identify biomarkers that can serve as objective indicators to evaluate exercise therapy on diseased or ageing brain. In addition, unmasking biomarkers may be instrumental in elucidating the mechanisms mediating exercise-induced brain health, thereby contributing to novel drug discovery for treatments to maintain brain health.
Part of the book: Role of Biomarkers in Medicine