Aerobic exercise interacts with neurotrophic factors to predict cognitive functioning in adolescents

Tatia M.C. Lee, Mark Lawrence Wong, Wui Man Lau, Jada Chia Di Lee, Suk Yu Yau, Kwok Fai So

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Recent findings have suggested that aerobic exercise may have a positive effect on brain functioning, in addition to its well-recognized beneficial effects on human physiology. This study confirmed the cognitive effects of aerobic exercise on the human brain. It also examined the relationships between exercise and the serum levels of neurotrophic factors (BDNF, IGI-1, and VEGF). A total of 91 healthy teens who exercised regularly participated in this study. A between-group design was adopted to compare cognitive functioning subserved by the frontal and temporal brain regions and the serum levels of neurotrophic factors between 45 regular exercisers and 46 matched controls. The exercisers performed significantly better than the controls on the frontal and temporal functioning parameters measured. This beneficial cognitive effect was region-specific because no such positive cognitive effect on task-tapping occipital functioning was observed. With respect to the serum levels of the neurotrophic factors, a negative correlation between neurotrophic factors (BDNF and VEGF) with frontal and medial-temporal lobe function was revealed. Furthermore, the levels of BDNF and VEGF interacted with exercise status in predicting frontal and temporal lobe function. This is the first report of the interaction effects of exercise and neurotrophic factors on cognitive functioning. Herein, we report preliminary evidence of the beneficial effects of regular aerobic exercise in improving cognitive functions in teens. These beneficial effects are region-specific and are associated with the serum levels of neurotrophic factors. Our findings lay the path for future studies looking at ways to translate these beneficial effects to therapeutic strategies for adolescents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-224
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Cognition
  • Exercise
  • Frontal regions
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neurotrophic factors
  • Temporal regions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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