Protocol for a systematic review of the effects of gardening physical activity on neuroplasticity and cognitive function

Antonio George Lentoor, Tiro B. Motsamai, Thandokuhle Nxiweni, Bongumusa Mdletshe, Siyasanga Mdingi

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The beneficial effects of gardening as a form of physical activity have
garnered growing interest in recent years. Existing research suggests that physical activity enhances
brain function through modifying synaptic plasticity, growth factor synthesis, and neurogenesis.
Gardening physical activity is a promising, cost-effective, non-invasive intervention that can easily be
augmented in the rehabilitation of neurodegenerative conditions. However, there is still insufficient
literature. This protocol describes a systematic review to be conducted of scientific literature on the
benefits of gardening as a physical activity that can promote neuroplasticity and improve cognitive
function. This information can be useful as an intervention for persons who experience cognitive
impairment brought on by cancer and chemotherapy in developing countries such as South Africa
where there is real need to access cognitive rehabilitation. Methods and analysis: The systematic
review strategy will be conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews
and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines. An electronic literature database search of MEDLINE
(PubMed), Embase, Scopus, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), and Web
of Science will be carried out using medical search terms (MeSH), with English as the only permitted
language, during the time period of January 2010 to December 2022. We will search for and review
studies on how gardening as a physical activity impacts neuroplasticity and cognition. Two reviewers
will read the titles, and abstracts and full text of the studies identified during the search to exclude
records that do not meet the inclusion criteria. Data will then be extracted from the remaining studies. Any differences in opinion arising between the reviewers during the procedure will be resolved through
discussion with a third reviewer. The Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Critical Appraisal Tool checklist
will be utilized independently by two reviewers to evaluate the possibility of bias. The included articles
will be subjected to narrative synthesis, with the results being presented in a thematic manner. Ethics
and dissemination: There are no need for ethical approval because no patient data will be gathered.
The results will be disseminated through an open-access peer-reviewed indexed journal, presented
scientific meetings.
PROSPERO registration number: CRD42023394493
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-129
Number of pages12
JournalAIMS Neuroscience
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2023


  • brain plasticity
  • cognitive disorders
  • horticultural intervention
  • neurodegeneration
  • systematic review


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