Department of Biology and Biotechnology Charles Darwin, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Neurotrophins are closely related to stress, mental health and well-being. Initially synthesized as precursor proteins (pro-neurotrophins), they can influence both developing and mature neural circuits. For example, while pro Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (proBDNF) and Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) are related to learning and neuronal plasticity, proNGF is related to nociception and neurodegeneration. Levels of pro-neurotrophins are considerably changed in neurodegenerative pathologies such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. In addition, stress was shown to suppress BDNF synthesis, and exogenous administration of BDNF may produce an opposing response in some cases, emphasizing the importance of activating the body’s own resources.
To this aim, we utilized the Quadrato Motor Training (QMT), a specifically-structured sensorimotor training, which was found to increase alpha synchronization, and improve spatial cognition, reflectivity, creativity, as well as emotion regulation and general self-efficacy. Our studies demonstrated that proNGF and proBDNF vary following several weeks of QMT practice, and are correlated with improved creativity, which is closely related to mental well-being. Together, these results support the idea that QMT is a useful integrated training that may aid in enhancing physical and mental well-being. In the current talk, we will discuss the implications of combining cognitively challenging physical training for healthy development and aging.