Short-term bursts of exercise may enhance learning

July 29, 2019

Regular exercise is known to be good for overall health and has now been found to particularly improve brain function.Researchers at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in the US found that brief bouts of exercise primes the brain for learning by promoting synaptic connections.

Previous research has shown that sustained exercise promotes general brain health along with the heart, liver and muscles. However, Senior Scientist at the OHSU Vollum Institute and Dixon Professor of Neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine, Gary Westbrook, was intrigued by the brain-specific benefit of exercise over the body.

As such, OHSU’s study measured the brain’s response to single bouts of exercise in otherwise sedentary mice.The mice ran a few kilometers in two hours on running wheels – the human equivalent of a weekly game of pickup basketball or 4,000 steps.

From data accumulated by analysing genes that were increased in single neurons activated during exercise,the scientists made a key discovery with the very first observation of the Mtss1L gene. This activity-dependent gene was largely ignored in prior studies, but once activated, promotes small growths on dendritic spines within the hippocampus – thus forming new synaptic connections between neurons.

In effect, the study showed that a burst of exercise is enough to gear cognitive mechanisms for satisfactory learning. The scientists plan to pair acute bouts of exercise with learning to better understand the impact on learning and memory via the expression of this gene.


Category: Features, Wellness and Complementary Therapies

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