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Annals of Neurosciences


Background; Physical activity is associated with improved brain health and cognition in humans. However, the validity, range, and quality of evidence for the beneficial outcomes linked to exercise in experimental models of vascular dementia (VaD) have not been evaluated. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that assessed the effect of exercise intervention on models of VaD to provide an unbiased and comprehensive determination of the cognitive function and brain morphology benefits of exercise. Summary; A systematic search in three databases as well as study design characteristics and experimental data extraction were completed in December 2021. We investigated the effects of exercise on cognitive function and brain-morphology outcomes in VaD models. Twenty-five studies were included for systematic review, while 21 studies were included in the meta-analysis. These studies included seven models of VaD in rats (60%, 15 studies), mice (36%, 9 studies), and pigs (4%, 1 study). None of the included studies used aged animals, and the majority of studies (80%) used only male animals. Key Message; Exercise improves cognition but increased neuro-inflammation in VaD models. Exercise improved cognitive function as well as some markers of brain morphology in models of VaD. However, exercise increased anxiety and neuro-inflammatory signals in VaD models. Further, we observed increased reporting anomalies such as a lack of blinding to group treatment or data analysis and randomization of animals to groups. Our report could help in the appropriate design of experimental studies seeking to investigate the effects of exercise as a non-pharmacological intervention on VaD models with a high translational impact.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.