Swimming exercise enhances brain plasticity in fish

Daan Mes, Arjan P. Palstra, Christiaan V. Henkel, Ian Mayer, Marco A. Vindas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


It is well-established that sustained exercise training can enhance brain plasticity and boost cognitive performance in mammals, but this phenomenon has not received much attention in fish. The aim of this study was to determine whether sustained swimming exercise can enhance brain plasticity in juvenile Atlantic salmon. Brain plasticity was assessed by both mapping the whole telencephalon transcriptome and conducting telencephalic region-specific microdissections on target genes. We found that 1772 transcripts were differentially expressed between the exercise and control groups. Gene ontology (GO) analysis identified 195 and 272 GO categories with a significant overrepresentation of up- or downregulated transcripts, respectively. A multitude of these GO categories was associated with neuronal excitability, neuronal signalling, cell proliferation and neurite outgrowth (i.e. cognition-related neuronal markers). Additionally, we found an increase in proliferating cell nuclear antigen (pcna) after both three and eight weeks of exercise in the equivalent to the hippocampus in fish. Furthermore, the expression of the neural plasticity markers synaptotagmin (syt) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (bdnf) were also increased due to exercise in the equivalent to the lateral septum in fish. In conclusion, this is the first time that swimming exercise has been directly linked to increased telencephalic neurogenesis and neural plasticity in a teleost, and our results pave the way for future studies on exercise-induced neuroplasticity in fish.

Original languageEnglish
Article number191640
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2020


  • Atlantic salmon
  • Bdnf
  • Dorsolateral pallium
  • Hippocampus
  • Neurogenesis
  • Pcna


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