How Exercise Benefits the Brain (NewYork Times):
“To learn more about how exercise affects the brain, scientists in Ireland recently asked a group of sedentary male college students to take part in a memory test followed by strenuous exercise.
First, the young men watched a rapid-fire lineup of photos with the faces and names of strangers. After a break, they tried to recall the names they had just seen as the photos again zipped across a computer screen. Afterward, half of the students rode a stationary bicycle, at an increasingly strenuous pace, until they were exhausted. The others sat quietly for 30 minutes. Then both groups took the brain-teaser test again.
Notably, the exercised volunteers performed significantly better on the memory test than they had on their first try, while the volunteers who had rested did not improve.”
“Physical activity has been reported to improve cognitive function in humans and rodents, possibly via a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-regulated mechanism.
In this study of human subjects, we have assessed the effects of acute and chronic exercise on performance of a face-name matching task, which recruits the hippocampus and associated structures of the medial temporal lobe, and the Stroop word-colour task, which does not, and have assessed circulating concentrations of BDNF and IGF‑1 in parallel.
The results show that a short period of high-intensity cycling results in enhancements in performance of the face-name matching, but not the Stroop, task. These changes in cognitive function were paralleled by increased concentration of BDNF, but not IGF‑1, in the serum of exercising subjects. 3 weeks of cycling training had no effect on cardiovascular fitness, as assessed by VO2 scores, cognitive function, or serum BDNF concentration. Increases in fitness, cognitive function and serum BDNF response to acute exercise were observed following 5 weeks of aerobic training.
These data indicate that both acute and chronic exercise improve medial temporal lobe function concomitant with increased concentrations of BDNF in the serum, suggesting a possible functional role for this neurotrophic factor in exercise-induced cognitive enhancement in humans.”
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