Late exercise reduces neuroinflammation and cognitive dysfunction after traumatic brain injury

Chun Shu Piao, Bogdan A. Stoica, Junfang Wu, Boris Sabirzhanov, Zaorui Zhao, Rainier Cabatbat, David J. Loane, Alan I. Faden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Delayed secondary biochemical and cellular changes after traumatic brain injury continue for months to years, and are associated with chronic neuroinflammation and progressive neurodegeneration. Physical activity can reduce inflammation and facilitate recovery after brain injury. Here, we investigated the time-dependent effects, and underlying mechanisms of post-traumatic exercise initiation on outcome after moderate traumatic brain injury using a well-characterized mouse controlled cortical impact model. Late exercise initiation beginning at 5. weeks after trauma, but not early initiation of exercise at 1. week, significantly reduced working and retention memory impairment at 3. months, and decreased lesion volume compared to non-exercise injury controls. Cognitive recovery was associated with attenuation of classical inflammatory pathways, activation of alternative inflammatory responses and enhancement of neurogenesis. In contrast, early initiation of exercise failed to alter behavioral recovery or lesion size, while increasing the neurotoxic pro-inflammatory responses. These data underscore the critical importance of timing of exercise initiation after trauma and its relation to neuroinflammation, and challenge the widely held view that effective neuroprotection requires early intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-263
Number of pages12
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Exercise
  • Inflammation
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neurogenesis
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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