Understanding the Neurophysiological and Molecular Mechanisms of Exercise-Induced Neuroplasticity in Cortical and Descending Motor Pathways: Where Do We Stand?
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Exercise is a promising, cost-effective intervention to augment successful aging and neurorehabilitation. Decline of gray and white matter accompanies physiological aging and contributes to motor deficits in older adults. Exercise is believed to reduce atrophy within the motor system and induce neuroplasticity which, in turn, helps preserve motor function during aging and promote re-learning of motor skills, for example after stroke. To fully exploit the benefits of exercise, it is crucial to gain a greater understanding of the neurophysiological and molecular mechanisms underlying exercise-induced brain changes that prime neuroplasticity and thus contribute to postponing, slowing, and ameliorating age- and disease-related impairments in motor function. This knowledge will allow us to develop more effective, personalized exercise protocols that meet individual needs, thereby increasing the utility of exercise strategies in clinical and non-clinical settings. Here, we review findings from studies that investigated neurophysiological and molecular changes associated with acute or long-term exercise in healthy, young adults and in healthy, postmenopausal women.
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