Move It & Lose It with Prof Trim

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Exercise builds brain health
In a recent review that would take slightly more space to do it justice than the paragraph devoted to it here, University of California-Irvine brain researchers have concluded that exercise is not just good for the body, but can also be good for the brain. It does this by allowing the production of growth factors which allow for neurogenesis in the part of the brain (hippocampus) associated with learning and feelings of well-being.

Dr Garry Egger aka Prof Trim

Growth factors are molecules that promote the health of specific cells; they are produced by cells other than the ones they nourish. Nerve growth factors (neurotrophins) play vital roles in nourishing and supporting nerve cells. A growth factor called BDNF (for brain-derived neurotrophic factor) increases significantly in the brains of animals that run voluntarily. Researchers have found that laboratory animals that voluntarily run on an exercise wheel show increases in the generation and survival of new neurons (brain cells) in the hippocampus This increased neurogenesis is associated with improved learning. ‘You’re literally building the structure of the brain, just by moving your feet.’ says lead writer Carl W. Cotman, PhD.

Not only does regular exercise promote neurogenesis, it also:

  • Improves concentration and attention
  • Reduces loss of gray matter
  • Strengthens synapses (in animals, running also increases the strength of synaptic connections), and
  • Enhances blood flow

Trends in Neurosciences (2007) Exercise builds brain health: key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation Trends in Neurosciences 30 (2007) 9, 464–472

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