Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Exercise May Make You Smarter

Using mice and memory tests, researchers have discovered that exercising can increase the production of neurons in the memory region of the brain. Previous research only suggested that exercise increased the development of brain cells in young mice. But by also using older mice, the study suggests that exercise also helps them. This leads to the promise that seniors may be able to boost their brainpower. The study also suggests that those with diseases such as Alzheimer's could be able to replace brain cells by engaging in physical activity.
The study showed that older mice that exercised on a running wheel developed new brain cells and were able to learn a new task faster then those who didn't exercise at all. This was due to the production of neurons in the memory part of the mouse brain. If the findings also hold true for people, they suggest regular workouts might give seniors a boost in brainpower and it might even help forestall the dementia people can get as they get older. Researcher Fred Gage of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in LaJolla, Ca. suggests that it's never too late to get moving. The mice in the study were about 70 in human years, and they developed an edge in brainpower after exercising for only a month. Previous research used mice that were about 20 in human years. This study is the first to show the benefits in older mice as well. Gage and his colleagues allowed a group of old and a group of young mice unlimited access to a running wheel. The mice ran about 2 miles each day. A third group of mice were kept from exercising. After a month of regular exercise, the researchers then tested the mice on memory. Placing them in water, the mice were first shown where the platform to stand on was located. Then they had to find it on their own, even when it was hidden in cloudy water. The researchers found that the older mice who exercised did just as well as the younger ones. They remembered the location of the platform and quickly swam there without much trouble. However, the older mice that didn't exercise daily had trouble locating the platform, showing a decline in memory. In most cases, the mice swam around aimlessly and either never found the platform, or found it by chance. When the team examined the mouses' brain tissue, they also found that the older mice that had been exercising had more significant amounts of cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps with memory and the ability to learn new tasks. Gage says that the mice that didn't exercise produced very few brain cells. William Thies of the Chicago-based Alzheimer's Association says this study suggests that people with brain destroying diseases such as Alzheimer's might be able to replace and build brain cells as a result of daily workouts. The findings also indicate that healthly older people might be able to reverse some of the normal age-related loss of brain cells with only a daily walk.
Public health experts recommend that adults get at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. They feel that building fitness into every life helps prevent heart disease, diabetes and might offer an edge in old age. People shouldn't wait for researchers to confirm these findings. This new study adds yet another compelling reason to get your body moving.

Other ways to improve your brainpower....

Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston recently concluded that the more sleep you get, the better you will remember. They believe that during sleep, newly formed memories get organized in the brain. Therefore, the more you sleep, the better your chances of retaining the information. These findings may explain why infants, who are constantly learning, require so much sleep.

With Alzheimer's effecting 4.5 million already, and another 350,000 per year, researchers suggest that some simple steps can be taken to help. First, in a 10 year study of 1,800 women and men, those who drank juice three times a week had a 75 percent lower risk of dementia. Researchers at the University of South Florida speculate that the high concentrations of polyphenols, or cell-protecting antioxidants, may be the reason. Second, exercise sends blood to the brain, improving memory. Singing while working out further boosted retention for 70 percent of those that participated in the Japanese study. Finally, Swedish and American researchers found that out of 100 pairs of twins, those who had lost many teeth due to gum disease were four times as likely to develop Alzheimer's. They said that bacteria in the mouth may cause chronic inflammation, which could slow down blood flow to the brain.

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