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Exercise not only makes you stronger, it makes you smarter too

By Connie Wan, P.h.D | August 6th, 2019

We all know that regular exercise is good for the health. A research from Oregon Health Science University (OHSU) suggests that exercise may make you smarter, too.  The research has been published online in the journal eLife.

Neuroscientists at OHSU in Portland, Oregon, working with mice, have discovered that a short burst of exercise directly boosts the function of a gene that increases connections between neurons in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with learning and memory.

Previous research in animals and in people shows that regular exercise promotes general brain health. However, it’s hard to untangle the overall benefits of exercise to the heart, liver and muscles from the specific effect on the brain. For example, a healthy heart oxygenates the whole body, including the brain.  In addition, previous studies of exercise almost all focus on sustained exercise.  OHSU scientists wondered if there is any brain-specific benefit of exercise.

The OHSU scientists designed a study in mice that specifically measured the brain’s response to single bouts of exercise in otherwise sedentary mice that were placed for short periods on running wheels. The mice ran a few kilometers in two hours.

The study found that short-term bursts of exercise — the human equivalent of a weekly game of pickup basketball, or 4,000 steps — promoted an increase in synapses in the hippocampus. Further genetic mechanistic study suggested that an acute burst of exercise is enough to prime the brain for learning.

In short, exercise not only makes you stronger, it makes you smarter too.

Thanks for reading.

Journal Reference:

Christina Chatzi, Gina Zhang, Wiiliam D Hendricks, Yang Chen, Eric Schnell, Richard H Goodman, Gary L Westbrook. Exercise-induced enhancement of synaptic function triggered by the inverse BAR protein, Mtss1LeLife, 2019; 8 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.45920