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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 3589271, 22 pages
Review Article

Lifestyle Modulators of Neuroplasticity: How Physical Activity, Mental Engagement, and Diet Promote Cognitive Health during Aging

Department of Physical Therapy, AState, Jonesboro, AR, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Cristy Phillips

Received 11 February 2017; Revised 1 May 2017; Accepted 28 May 2017; Published 12 June 2017

Academic Editor: Azucena B. Losa

Copyright © 2017 Cristy Phillips. 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.


The number of the elderly across the globe will approximate 2.1 billion by 2050. Juxtaposed against this burgeoning segment of the population is evidence that nonpathological aging is associated with an increased risk for cognitive decline in a variety of domains, changes that can cause mild disability even before the onset of dementia. Given that pharmacological treatments that mitigate dementia are still outstanding, alternative therapeutic options are being investigated increasingly. The results from translational studies have shown that modifiable lifestyle factors—including physical activity, cognitive engagement, and diet—are a key strategy for maintaining brain health during aging. Indeed, a multiplicity of studies has demonstrated relationships between lifestyle factors, brain structure and function, and cognitive function in aging adults. For example, physical activity and diet modulate common neuroplasticity substrates (neurotrophic signaling, neurogenesis, inflammation, stress response, and antioxidant defense) in the brain whereas cognitive engagement enhances brain and cognitive reserve. The aims of this review are to evaluate the relationship between modifiable lifestyle factors, neuroplasticity, and optimal brain health during aging; to identify putative mechanisms that contribute positive brain aging; and to highlight future directions for scientists and clinicians. Undoubtedly, the translation of cutting-edge knowledge derived from the field of cognitive neuroscience will advance our understanding and enhance clinical treatment interventions as we endeavor to promote brain health during aging.