A Systematic Review on the Effects of Acute Aerobic Exercise on Neurophysiological, Molecular, and Behavioral Measures in Chronic Stroke

Anjali Sivaramakrishnan, Sandeep K. Subramanian

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: A single bout of aerobic exercise (AE) can produce changes in neurophysiological and behavioral measures in healthy individuals and those with stroke. However, the effects of AE-priming effects on neuroplasticity markers and behavioral measures are unclear. Objectives: This systematic review aimed to examine the effects of AE on neuroplasticity measures, such as corticomotor excitability (CME), molecular markers, cortical activation, motor learning, and performance in stroke. Methods: A literature search was performed in MEDLINE, CINAHL, Scopus, and PsycINFO databases. Randomized and non-randomized studies incorporating acute AE in stroke were selected. Two reviewers independently assessed the risk of bias and methodological rigor of the studies and extracted data on participant characteristics, exercise interventions, and neuroplasticity related outcomes. The quality of transcranial magnetic stimulation reported methods was assessed using a standardized checklist. Results: A total of 16 studies were found suitable for inclusion. Our findings suggest mixed evidence for the effects of AE on CME, limited to no effects on intracortical inhibition and facilitation and some evidence for modulating brain derived neurotrophic factor levels, motor learning, and cortical activation. Exercise intensities in the moderate to vigorous range showed a trend towards better effects on neuroplasticity measures. Conclusion: It appears that choosing a moderate to vigorous exercise paradigm for at least 20 to 30 minutes may induce changes in some neuroplasticity parameters in stroke. However, these findings necessitate prudent consideration as the studies were diverse and had moderate methodological quality. There is a need for a consensus on an exercise priming paradigm and for good-quality, larger controlled studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-164
Number of pages14
JournalNeurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023


  • BDNF
  • aerobic exercise
  • motor learning
  • neuroplasticity
  • neurotrophins
  • priming
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Rehabilitation


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