Division of Neurosurgery, Brain Injury Research Center, UCLA Medical School, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA. [email protected]
It is likely that the capacity of the brain to remain healthy during aging depends upon its ability to adapt and nurture in response to environmental challenges. In these terms, main principles involved in hormesis can be also applied to understand relationships at a higher level of complexity such as those existing between the CNS and the environment. This review emphasizes the ability of diet, exercise, and other lifestyle adaptations to modulate brain function. Exercise and diet are discussed in relationship to their aptitude to impact systems that sustain synaptic plasticity and mental health, and are therefore important for combating the effects of aging. Mechanisms that interface energy metabolism and synaptic plasticity are discussed, as these are the frameworks for the actions of cellular stress on cognitive function. In particular, neurotrophins are emerging as main factors in the equation that may connect lifestyle factors and mental health.