Research ArticleNEUROSCIENCE

Exercise training improves motor skill learning via selective activation of mTOR

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Science Advances  03 Jul 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 7, eaaw1888
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw1888


Physical exercise improves learning and memory, but little in vivo evidence has been provided to illustrate the molecular mechanisms. Here, we show that chronic treadmill exercise activates the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway in mouse motor cortex. Both ex vivo and in vivo recordings suggest that mTOR activation leads to potentiated postsynaptic excitation and enhanced neuronal activity of layer 5 pyramidal neurons after exercise, in association with increased oligodendrogenesis and axonal myelination. Exercise training also increases dendritic spine formation and motor learning. Together, exercise activates mTOR pathway, which is necessary for spinogenesis, neuronal activation, and axonal myelination leading to improved motor learning. This model provides new insights for neural network adaptations through exercises and supports the intervention of cognitive deficits using exercise training.

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