2020 Undergraduate Research Showcase


Exercise Protects the Brain… But Why?

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Stephanie Hall and Dr. Luke Montrose


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects >5.5 million Americans. Although the exact cause is unknown, research shows a strong correlation between hyperphosphorylation of tau filaments in the brain and AD pathology. Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a protein that preserves neuroplasticity by stabilizing tau proteins through dephosphorylation. Unfortunately, the amount of BDNF in our brains decreases as we age. Studies have shown that exercise increases BDNF, but what we don’t know is precisely how exercise influences the expression of BDNF. To better understand the interface between AD, exercise, and epigenetics of BDNF -- modifications that can regulate gene expression without altering the genetic sequence -- we conducted a literature review. Based on our findings, we designed an experiment to compare epigenetic profiles of BDNF in brain tissue from exercised and sedentary rats with AD. Our methods include a pyrosequencing workflow, which will reveal DNA methylation patterns -- a specific type of epigenetic modification. Differences in DNA methylation patterns may provide insights into possible treatments of AD due to the plastic nature of this epigenetic mark.

This document is currently not available here.