Physical activity and cognition: A narrative review
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.