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While physical exercise clearly has beneficial effects on the brain, fomenting neuroprotection as well as promoting neural plasticity and behavioural modifications, the cellular and molecular mechanisms mediating these effects are not yet fully understood. We have analyzed sedentary and exercised animals to examine the effects of activity on behaviour (spatial memory and anxiety — as measured by a fear/exploration conflict test), as well as on adult hippocampal neurogenesis (a well-known form of neural plasticity). We have found that the difference in activity between sedentary and exercised animals induced a decrease in the fear/exploration conflict scores (a measure usually accepted as an anxiolytic effect), while no changes are evident in terms of spatial memory learning. The short-term anxiolytic-like effect of exercise was IGF1-dependent and indeed, the recall of hippocampus-dependent spatial memory is impaired by blocking serum IGF1 (as observed by measuring serum IGF levels in the same animals used to analyze the behaviour), irrespective of the activity undertaken by the animals. On the other hand, activity affected neurogenesis as reflected by counting the numbers of several cell populations, while the dependence of this effect on IGF1 varied according to the differentiation state of the new neurons. Hence, while proliferating precursors and postmitotic immature neurons (measured by means of doublecortin and calretinin) are influenced by serum IGF1 levels in both sedentary and exercised animals, premitotic immature neurons (an intermediate stage) respond to exercise independently of serum IGF1. Therefore, we conclude that physical exercise has both serum IGF1-independent and -dependent effects on neural plasticity. Furthermore, several effects mediated by serum IGF1 are induced by physical activity while others are not (both in terms of behaviour and neural plasticity). These findings help to delimit the role of serum IGF1 as a mediator of the effects of exercise, as well as to extend the role of serum IGF1 in the brain in basal conditions. Moreover, these data reveal the complexity of the interaction between neurogenesis, behaviour, and IGF1 under different levels of physical activity.