Long-term exercise interventions have been shown to be a potent trigger for both neurogenesis and vascular plasticity. However, little is known about the underlying temporal dynamics and specifically when exercise-induced vascular adaptations first occur, which is vital for therapeutic applications. In this study, we investigated whether a single session of moderate-intensity exercise was sufficient to induce changes in the cerebral vasculature. We employed arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging to measure global and regional cerebral blood flow (CBF) before and after 20 min of cycling. The blood vessels' ability to dilate, measured by cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) to CO2 inhalation, was measured at baseline and 25-min postexercise. Our data showed that CBF was selectively increased by 10-12% in the hippocampus 15, 40, and 60 min after exercise cessation, whereas CVR to CO2 was unchanged in all regions. The absence of a corresponding change in hippocampal CVR suggests that the immediate and transient hippocampal adaptations observed after exercise are not driven by a mechanical vascular change and more likely represents an adaptive metabolic change, providing a framework for exploring the therapeutic potential of exercise-induced plasticity (neural, vascular, or both) in clinical and aged populations.
Steventon, J. J., Foster, C., Furby, H., Helme, D., Wise, R. G., & Murphy, K. (2019). Hippocampal Blood Flow Is Increased After 20 min of Moderate-Intensity Exercise. Cerebral Cortex. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhz104