ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2018, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (10): 1857-1868.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2018.01857

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The brain mechanisms of the physical exercise enhancing cognitive function

XIA Haishuo1, DING Qingwen2, ZHUANG Yan3, CHEN Antao1()   

  1. 1 School of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China
    2 Department of Psychology, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079, China
    3 Department of Physical Education, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China
  • Received:2017-10-16 Online:2018-10-15 Published:2018-08-27
  • Contact: CHEN Antao


It has been identified that physical exercise is able to enhance cognitive functions, attracting attention to the underlying brain mechanisms. The literature shows that the enhancing effects rely basically on two distinct mechanisms, on the microscale and macroscale levels, respectively. At the microscale level, physical exercise favored synaptogenesis and the survival of neurons through better nutrient supply and metabolism. At the macroscale level, physical exercise could enhance cognition through enlarging the volume of white and grey matter, and changing the brain activity and functional connectivity. Notably, multiple factors could influence the enhancing effects of physical exercise on cognition, such as individual differences, time, and the interaction between physical exercise and cognitive stimulations. These factors provide new directions to conduct deep and systematic investigations on the brain mechanisms of enhancing effects on the two levels.

Key words: physical exercise, cognitive enhancement, brain imaging, brain derived neurotrophic factor, synaptogenesis