Exercise boosts brain power
Running a few days a week can stimulate the brain to grow new cells, research on mice has revealed.
A team of scientists studied the effects of exercise on two groups of mice, one of which had unlimited access to a running wheel throughout the experiment whilst the other had limited access and formed a control group. Both groups were made to perform simple memory tests. Results showed that the mice with unrestricted access to the wheel exercised more, and performed twice as well in the memory tests as the mice in the control group.
Afterwards, tissue samples from the brain were taken and showed a significant increase in the growth of new brain cells in the active mice. These samples were obtained from the dentate gyrus part of the brain which is one of the few regions of the adult brain capable of growing new matter.
Scientists suggest that the growth may be due to increased blood flow and hormones released during exercise. Exercise is also known to reduce stress which can stop new brain cells growing due to the release of the hormone cortisol.
The team believes this study explains how exercise improves memory and why it may deteriorate with age. They hope to conduct more research into the area to increase our understanding of the link between exercise and healthy brain function.