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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.

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  1. juliana65 says:

    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.
    ————————————–
    juliana

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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