Ageing Res Rev. 2023 Oct 14:102089. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2023.102089. Online ahead of print.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by motor and non-motor symptoms, that still lacks of a disease-modifying treatment. Consistent evidence proved the benefits of physical therapy on motor and non-motor symptoms in PD patients, leading the scientific community to propose physical activity as disease-modifying therapy for PD and suggesting the involvement of neurotrophic factors (NFs) as key mediators of neuroplasticity. However, the lack of standardized exercise training and methodological flaws of clinical trials have limited the evidence demonstrating the exercise-induced changes in serum and plasma neurotrophic factors concentration. A systematic search, covering 20 years of research in this field and including randomized and non-randomized controlled trials (RCTs and non-RCTs), which reported changes in serum and plasma NFs after a specific intervention, were reviewed. Pooled effect sizes (p-ESs) and 95% confidence intervals (95%CIs) were calculated using a random effects model with R software. A total of 18 articles, of which exercise programs of interventions were codified in terms of type, intensity and duration adopting a standardisation methodology, were included in the systematic review. Six papers, describing the effect of different training programs on BDNF and IGF-1 levels, were included and independently analysed in two meta-analyses. Quantitative analysis for BDNF indicated a statistically significant improvement in serum concentration of PD patients (MD: 5.99ng/mL; 95%IC: 0.15 -11.83; I2= 77%) performing physical activity compared with control conditions in RCTs. Preliminary evidence supported the hypothesis that a moderate intensity aerobic exercise (MIAE) would be necessary to induce the changes in NFs. However, sensitivity analysis of meta-analysis and the few studies included in subgroup analysis did not support these results. Alongside, meta-analysis followed by sensitivity analysis revealed a potential change in serum IGF-1 (MD: 33.47ng/mL; 95%IC: 8.09-58.85) in PD patients performing physical activity with respect controls in RCT studies. Considering the limited evidence to support or refute the increase in NFs levels in PD patients performing physical activity, there is a need to develop a rigorous controlled randomized trial, with standardization for loading intensity of physical activity, greater sample size, and a correct stratification of PD patients to establish a well-defined correlation between physical activity and NFs levels.