Exercise-induced increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor in human Parkinson's disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Mark A. Hirsch, Erwin E.H. van Wegen, Mark A. Newman, Patricia C. Heyn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Animal models of exercise and Parkinson's disease (PD) have found that the physiologic use of exercise may interact with the neurodegenerative disease process, likely mediated by brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). No reviews so far have assessed the methodologic quality of available intervention studies or have bundled the effect sizes of individual studies on exercise-induced effects on BDNF blood levels in human PD. Research design and methods: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, PsycINFO and PubMed from inception to June 2017. Results: Data aggregated from two randomized controlled trials and four pre-experimental studies with a total of 100 ambulatory patients with idiopathic PD (Hoehn/Yahr ≤3) found improvements in BDNF blood concentration levels in all 6 studies (two RCTs and 4 pre-experimental studies). Pooled BDNF level change scores from the 2 RCTs resulted in a significant homogeneous summary effect size (Standardized Mean Difference 2.06, 95% CI 1.36 to 2.76), and a significant heterogeneous SES for the motor part of the UPDRS-III examination (MD -5.53, 95% CI -10.42 to -0.64). Clinical improvements were noted in all studies using a variety of outcome measures. Limitations: The evidence-base consists primarily of small studies with low to moderate methodological quality. Conclusions: This review provides preliminary evidence for the effectiveness of physical exercise treatments for persons with PD on BDNF blood levels. Further research is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalTranslational Neurodegeneration
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2018


  • Brain derived neurotrophic factor
  • Exercise
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Rehabilitation
  • Systematic review

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