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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is becoming increasingly prevalent among adolescents, and while the number of individuals diagnosed with the disorder grows, there continues to be no cure or even a clear treatment path for ASD. This study analyzes the biological stimulations that create cognitive changes—which are induced by intensive aerobic exercise—within the brains of individuals ages 8-18 diagnosed with autism. I studied journal articles on the current treatments available for ASD, the increasing prevalence of the disease, the cognitive alterations of the autistic brain relative to the brains of individuals without the disease, the release of growth factors due to aerobic exercise, and the benefits of brain derived neurotic factors (BDNF) on the hippocampus and cerebral cortex. I identified that aerobic exercise stimulates the release of growth factors such as BDNF, which target primarily the cerebral cortex and the hippocampal regions of the brain essential for learning and memory processes along with synaptic plasticity. Since adolescents with ASD have a higher risk for obesity and overall tend to have thinner myelin sheaths and shorter axon lengths, aerobic exercise as a physical component and the protein growth factors that are produced as a result of aerobic exercise as a chemical component will prove to be a possible treatment option for ASD. Since there are no current treatments that have a guaranteed benefit for reducing of symptoms of ASD, the identification of aerobic exercise as a viable treatment option will provide to be a safe and healthy alternative to medications that are currently available.

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autism spectrum disorder, aerobic exercise, growth factors, brain derived neurotic factors (BDNF)


Analytical, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Techniques and Equipment | Cognitive Neuroscience | Developmental Biology | Developmental Neuroscience

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Mary C. Boyes


© The Author(s)

Potential for Aerobic Exercise to Release Growth Factors to Induce Cognitive Changes in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder