Improve Memory and Enhance Post-Stroke Rehab with Exercise

A cou­ple of recent stud­ies have rein­forced the life­long poten­tial for brain plas­tic­i­ty (the Brain Health Newsabil­i­ty of the brain to rewire itself through expe­ri­ence) and the impor­tance of phys­i­cal exer­cise for cog­ni­tive vital­i­ty. One study focused on 1) adults over 50 with mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment, the oth­er one on 2) stroke survivors.

1)  Mem­o­ry prob­lems: Adults 50-years-old and over with mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment (an advanced form of mem­o­ry prob­lems, but pre-demen­tia) were asked to exer­cise for three 50-minute ses­sions per week for 24 weeks (a total of 60 hours). Results: there were small, but mea­sur­able, cog­ni­tive ben­e­fits even 18 months after the start of the pro­gram (around a year after the super­vised exer­cise activ­i­ties ended).
Study: Nico­la T. Laut­en­schlager et al. Effect of Phys­i­cal Activ­i­ty on Cog­ni­tive Func­tion in Old­er Adults at Risk for Alzheimer Dis­ease. Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, 3 Sep­tem­ber 2008 [link]

2) Stroke Rehab: the study showed how sus­tained phys­i­cal reha­bil­i­ta­tion can have a ben­e­fi­cial brain impact for stroke sur­vivors, and that the effect was more clear by walk­ing in a tread­mill (as a car­dio­vas­cu­lar exer­cise) than by doing assist­ed stretch­ing exercises.

The press release for the oth­er study, Tread­mill Exer­cise Retrains Brain And Body Of Stroke Vic­tims, con­tains this quote:“This is great news for stroke sur­vivors because results clear­ly demon­strate that long-term stroke dam­age is not immutable and that with exer­cise it’s nev­er too late for the brain and body to recov­er,” says Daniel Han­ley, M.D., pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy at the Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty School of Medicine.

Indeed, there is no rea­son why the process of phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive reha­bil­i­ta­tion (or “enhance­ment”) should ever stop, either as part of for­mal ther­a­py or as a lifestyle modification.
This Los Ange­les Times arti­cle, Brain func­tion gets a boost from walk­ing, pro­vides good com­men­tary on both stud­ies, and includes this nice quote:

The act of doing a move­ment over and over can also stim­u­late the brain’s neu­ro­cir­cuits, he adds, result­ing in activ­i­ty in var­i­ous regions of the brain. That activ­i­ty may decrease over time as the body becomes more effi­cient at the activ­i­ty. But oth­er stim­u­la­tion can have an effect — while a per­son walks out­side with a friend, for exam­ple, the brain is guid­ing a num­ber of activ­i­ties, such as talk­ing and observing.”

Which is why we always empha­size the impor­tance of  nov­el­ty and chal­lenge. Doing the same thing over and over and over and over, with the same lev­el of dif­fi­cul­ty, brings lim­it­ed if any cog­ni­tive benefits.

1 Comment

  1. juliana65 on October 30, 2008 at 1:21

    The press release for the oth­er study, Tread­mill Exer­cise Retrains Brain And Body Of Stroke Vic­tims, con­tains this quote:“This is great news for stroke sur­vivors because results clear­ly demon­strate that long-term stroke dam­age is not immutable and that with exer­cise it’s nev­er too late for the brain and body to recov­er,” says Daniel Han­ley, M.D., pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy at the Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty School of Medicine.
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    juliana



English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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