For Your Brain’s Sake, Just Keep Moving

This may be the key to avoiding dementia …


Because we can never have enough reasons to keep exercising, a new study with mice finds that physical activity not only increases the number of new neurons in the brain, it also subtly changes the shape and workings of these cells in ways that might have implications for memory and even delaying the onset of dementia.

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“It is a very good idea for the sake of the brain to be moving and active.” Henriette van Praag, National Institutes of Health. Photo: skeeze, Pixabay

As most of us have heard, our brains are not composed of static, unchanging tissue.

Instead, in most animals, including people, the brain is a dynamic, active organ in which new neurons and neural connections are created throughout life, especially in areas of the brain related to memory and thinking.

This process of creating new neurons, called neurogenesis, can be altered by lifestyle, including physical activity.

Many past studies have shown that in laboratory rodents, exercise doubles or even triples the number of new cells produced in adult animals’ brains compared to the brains of animals that are sedentary.

But it has not been clear whether the new brain cells in active animals are somehow different from comparable new neurons in inactive animals or if they are just more numerous.

That question has long interested scientists at the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging, who have been examining how running alters the brains and behavior of lab animals.

Last year, in a study published in NeuroImage, the researchers found for the first time that young brain cells in adult mice that spent a month with running wheels in their cages did seem to be different from those in animals that did not run. READ THE FULL STORY AT THE NEW YORK TIMES. Also of interest: Heart-Healthy Cooking to Prevent Stroke