Exercise and the Brain

Exercise promotes the expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) through the action of the ketone body β-hydroxybutyrate


Exercise induces beneficial responses in the brain, which is accompanied by an increase in BDNF (Brain derived Neuro factors), a trophic factor associated with cognitive improvement and the alleviation of depression symptoms and anxiety. However, the exact mechanisms whereby physical exercise produces an induction in brain BDNF gene expression are not well understood. 

A recent paper provides key evidence that an endogenous molecule, BHB such as GoKeto, that crosses the blood brain barrier, is increased by physical exercise to enhance the expression of Bdnf in the brain and in turn affect synaptic transmission (Figure 8). This has potential not just to provide a much needed additional energy source for the brain but also may help increase focus, cognition function and an overall better mood. Further studies aiming at identifying molecules that can also serve the dual purpose of an energy fuel and epigenetic modulator will help us accumulate additional members of the “exercise pill”. The identification of these molecules is of great interest as many people afflicted with chronic anxiety, depression or with neuro-degenerative diseases are likely to benefit from the ability of exercise to stimulate BDNF through small metabolites, such as BHB. The involvement of ketone bodies in many other metabolic processes with direct action on conditions and syndromes, such as glucose utilization, diabetes and epilepsy, suggests they represent vital molecules with broad metabolic effects upon chromatin and gene expression.