The Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Val66Met Polymorphism Moderates an Effect of Physical Activity on Working Memory Performance

  • Erickson K
  • Banducci S
  • Weinstein A
 et al. 
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Physical activity enhances cognitive performance, yet individual
variability in its effectiveness limits its widespread therapeutic
application. Genetic differences might be one source of this variation.
For example, carriers of the methionine-specifying (Met) allele of the
brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) Val66Met polymorphism have
reduced secretion of BDNF and poorer memory, yet physical activity
increases BDNF levels. To determine whether the BDNF polymorphism
moderated an association of physical activity with cognitive functioning
among 1,032 midlife volunteers (mean age = 44.59 years), we evaluated
participants' performance on a battery of tests assessing memory,
learning, and executive processes, and evaluated their physical activity
with the Paffenbarger Physical Activity Questionnaire. BDNF genotype
interacted robustly with physical activity to affect working memory, but
not other areas of cognitive functioning. In particular, greater levels
of physical activity offset a deleterious effect of the Met allele on
working memory performance. These findings suggest that physical
activity can modulate domain-specific genetic (BDNF) effects on

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  • Kirk I Erickson

  • Sarah E Banducci

  • Andrea M Weinstein

  • Angus W MacDonald III

  • Robert E Ferrell

  • Indrani Halder

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