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Neuroprotective Effects of Exercise Treatments After Injury: The Dual Role of Neurotrophic Factors

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Background: Shared connections between physical activity and neuroprotection have been studied for decades, but the mechanisms underlying this effect of specific exercise were only recently brought to light. Several evidences suggest that physical activity may be a reasonable and beneficial method to improve functional recovery in both peripheral and central nerve injuries and to delay functional decay in neurodegenerative diseases. In addition to improving cardiac and immune functions, physical activity may represent a multifunctional approach not only to improve cardiocirculatory and immune functions, but potentially modulating trophic factors signaling and, in turn, neuronal function and structure at times that may be critical for neurodegeneration and regeneration.

Methods: Research content related to the effects of physical activity and specific exercise programs in normal and injured nervous system have been reviewed.

Results: Sustained exercise, particularly if applied at moderate intensity and early after injury, exerts anti-inflammatory and pro-regenerative effects, and may boost cognitive and motor functions in aging and neurological disorders. However, newest studies show that exercise modalities can differently affect the production and function of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and other neurotrophins involved in the generation of neuropathic conditions. These findings suggest the possibility that new exercise strategies can be directed to nerve injuries with therapeutical benefits.

Conclusion: Considering the growing burden of illness worldwide, understanding of how modulation of neurotrophic factors contributes to exercise-induced neuroprotection and regeneration after peripheral nerve and spinal cord injuries is a relevant topic for research, and represents the beginning of a new non-pharmacological therapeutic approach for better rehabilitation of neural disorders.
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Keywords: Exercise; inflammation; nerve injury; nerve regeneration; neuropathic pain; neurotrophic factors; survival

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2017

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  • Current Neuropharmacology aims to provide current, timely and comprehensive reviews of all areas of neuropharmacology and related matters of neuroscience. The journal publishes reviews written by experts and leaders in the fields of molecular, cellular, and systems/behavioural aspects of neuropharmacology and neuroscience. The journal serves as a comprehensive, multidisciplinary expert forum for neuropharmacologists and neuroscientists.
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