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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2015, Article ID 608581, 12 pages
Review Article

Physical Exercise as a Diagnostic, Rehabilitation, and Preventive Tool: Influence on Neuroplasticity and Motor Recovery after Stroke

1Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, ISM UMR 7287, 13288 Marseille, France
2Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis et Université de Sud Toulon-Var, LAMHESS, UPRES EA 6309, 06204 Nice, France

Received 30 January 2015; Revised 3 June 2015; Accepted 18 June 2015

Academic Editor: Brandon A. Miller

Copyright © 2015 Caroline Pin-Barre and Jérôme Laurin. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Stroke remains a leading cause of adult motor disabilities in the world and accounts for the greatest number of hospitalizations for neurological disease. Stroke treatments/therapies need to promote neuroplasticity to improve motor function. Physical exercise is considered as a major candidate for ultimately promoting neural plasticity and could be used for different purposes in human and animal experiments. First, acute exercise could be used as a diagnostic tool to understand new neural mechanisms underlying stroke physiopathology. Indeed, better knowledge of stroke mechanisms that affect movements is crucial for enhancing treatment/rehabilitation effectiveness. Secondly, it is well established that physical exercise training is advised as an effective rehabilitation tool. Indeed, it reduces inflammatory processes and apoptotic marker expression, promotes brain angiogenesis and expression of some growth factors, and improves the activation of affected muscles during exercise. Nevertheless, exercise training might also aggravate sensorimotor deficits and brain injury depending on the chosen exercise parameters. For the last few years, physical training has been combined with pharmacological treatments to accentuate and/or accelerate beneficial neural and motor effects. Finally, physical exercise might also be considered as a major nonpharmacological preventive strategy that provides neuroprotective effects reducing adverse effects of brain ischemia. Therefore, prestroke regular physical activity may also decrease the motor outcome severity of stroke.