During acute stress (such as 14 days of horizontal bed rest, BR) plasma level of the neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (pBDNF) was demonstrated to increase in older, but not younger adults. We hypothesized that this increase might represent a mechanism of brain protection, and that performing computerized cognitive training (CCT) would alter this pBDNF increase. Thus 16 older adults (healthy volunteers) were divided into two groups: CCT (59.1 ± 3.6 years old) and control (C) group (59.1 ± 2.5 years old). All subjects underwent 14-day BR; the CCT group performed 45 min/day of spatial navigation task. PRE- and POST-BR pBDNF, muscular mass, neuromuscular function and metabolic parameters were measured. There was a significant interaction effect between time and group (p= 0.011) on pBDNF levels, that increased POST-BR for C (p=0.009) but not for CCT (p=0.281) group. CCT group showed anti-insular modifications in metabolism (increase in plasma glucose) whereas C group showed an increase in fat mass and decrease in plasma triglycerides. Muscle mass decreased in both groups. There was a negative correlation (r=-0.821) between POST-BR maximal explosive power of lower limbs and pBDNF in CCT group and a positive correlation in C group (r=0.810). Finally, only in C group, the variation of maximal voluntary contraction of knee extensors negatively correlated with pBDNF variation (r=-0.905). Our data seem to support the concept that if an external protection for brain occurs (i.e. CCT) there is no pBDNF increase, however if no CCT takes place pBDNF increase is associated to a certain preservation of neuromuscular function.
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