Primer on how exercise promotes cognitive integrity in the aging brain

Alterations in the structure and organization of the aging central nervous system (CNS), and associated functional deficits, result in cognitive decline and increase susceptibility to neurodegeneration. Age-related changes to the neurovascular unit (NVU), and their consequences for cerebrovascular function, are implicated as driving cognitive impairment during aging as well as in neurodegenerative disease. The molecular events underlying these effects are incompletely characterized. Similarly, the mechanisms underlying effects of factors that reduce the impact of aging on the brain, such as physical exercise, are also opaque. A study in this issue of PLOS Biology links the NVU to cognitive decline in the aging brain and suggests a potential underlying molecular mechanism. Notably, the study further links the protective effects of chronic exercise on cognition to neurovascular integrity during aging.