Physical Activity and Cognition: A Narrative Review
Keywords:BDNF, Brain injury, Cognition, Cognitive rehabilitation, Physical activity
Introduction. Cognitive rehabilitation programs have traditionally focused on mental strategies targeting
executive-functions, memory, and language. However, researchers are increasingly exploiting avenues to
enhance benefits of cognitive training to facilitate neuroplasticity through integrative therapies. Purpose.
The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the evidence that supports addition of physical activity
into traditional cognitive rehabilitation, creating a more integrated treatment approach. Specifically, the
evidence focuses on increased levels of Brain-Derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a specific growth
factor in neuroplasticity, following physical activity. Method. This narrative review chose a representative
sample of the evidence that informs cognitive gains as a result of physical activity, with an emphasis on
BDNF. A comprehensive review of the literature was conducted across PubMed, Cinahl, and PsycInfo,
and a representative sample of the evidence was selected that informs the effects of physical activity on
cognition, as well as the relationship with BDNF. Conclusion. The review supports the addition of physical
activity into cognitive rehabilitation programs to enhanced cognition in clinical populations. However, more
evidence is needed to support the duration and type of activity that would produce the most benefit.