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The Impact of Exercise on Brain Health

For those of you who are unaware- the hippocampus plays a crucial role in storing long-term memories.

The Study 📑

A recent study published in the Neuroscience journal reveals an even stronger connection between exercise and brain health. The study investigated the influence of muscle-generated chemical signals during movement on brain cell development, specifically focusing on the impact of exercise on the hippocampus.

Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist and director of research at the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health, as well as a physician at Jefferson University Hospital, commented, “This study is the first to explore the underlying mechanisms through which physical activity or exercise may affect the brain. It's well-established that exercise contributes to a healthy brain, enhancing mood and cognition. This study demonstrates that muscle cells may release chemical signals that influence neurons, delving deeper into the molecular aspect of this effect.”

In addition, a mechanical science and engineering PhD student named Ki Yun Lee, who also happens to be the study's lead author explained, “Exercise is known to improve cognitive health by altering hippocampal neurons in the brain. Our study offers new perspectives on how chemical signals from contracting muscles in vitro can speed up the maturation of hippocampal neurons and encourage the formation of neuronal networks.”

Astrocytes 🧫

It's called astrocytes; these specialized cells support and surround neurons in the brain, in controlling the development of hippocampal neuronal networks. The study found a crucial connection in the role of astrocytes in regulating neuron activity. The study found that when astrocytes were removed from cell cultures in the study, neurons became “hyperexcitable,” which means they are more likely to be activated by a stimulus.

Lee explained that the new study's findings could have significant implications for understanding and treating neurological disorders like epilepsy, which is caused by neuronal hyperexcitability. In particular, the findings indicate that chemical signals from contracting muscles might initiate a signaling pathway that improves cognitive function and could have therapeutic potential for addressing neurological disorders.

Furthermore, Lee said, “The findings have significant implications for developing new approaches to enhance cognitive health and treat neurological disorders. By identifying the critical role of astrocytes in mediating the effects of exercise on hippocampal neurons, the study suggests that future research should consider the interaction between muscles, astrocytes, and neurons.”

The study's results may also inform the development of exercise programs specifically designed to target the interaction between muscles, astrocytes, and neurons for optimal cognitive health, added Lee.

In a separate 2022 study published in Translational Psychiatry, researchers discovered that “abnormally elevated neuronal activity” is a common characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease and is linked to increased cognitive decline.

Final Thoughts 💡

The implications for brain health in the future: the study's findings support the growing evidence that exercise is beneficial for both physical and cognitive health. Think of exercise as vital as food or shelter! So grab a friend and go on a run, join community activities, and encourage your kids to remain active in extracurricular activities that require physical exertion. They'll thank you later, and so will your brain! 🧠 👏


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