little mouse on an exercise wheel

To keep brain fit, go for a run

U. QUEENSLAND (AUS) — A trip to the gym or going for a run not only keeps your body healthy, it’s good for your brain, too.

A new study—that finds physical exercise is just as important as cognitive exercise—describes how exercise increases the number of stem cells that are actively generating new nerve cells in the brain and reverses the decline normally observed as animals age.

“We have found that growth hormone (GH) originally discovered as a potent stimulator of animal growth is increased in the brain of running animals and this stimulates the activation of new neural stem cells,” says Daniel Blackmore, a scientist at the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland.

Published in the journal PLoS One, the study was carried out in older mice, which show the same cognitive decline as humans.

“In this model of aging we found that the number of active neural stem cells dramatically declines with age, but exercise dramatically reversed this, increasing stem cell numbers,” says team leader Professor Perry Bartlett, the Director of QBI.

“If we blocked the action of GH in the brains of these running animals, however, no such increase occurred, indicating GH was the primary regulator of this process.

“We are currently determining whether this grow GH–dependent increase in stem cell activity is able to reverse the cognitive decline seen in old animals by increasing production of new nerve cells.”

Source: University of Queensland

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