As the body ages, cells are gradually replaced less and less frequently, and organs, such as the brain, actually begin to shrink. But did you know that some kinds of exercise might prevent this?
The Chicago Tribune reported on a recent study demonstrating that aerobic exercises can actually increase brain size and enhance memory.
In late adult hood, the brain begins to shrink, which leads to memory impairment. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Illinois, Rice University and Ohio State showed that adults between the ages of 55-80 put on an aerobic exercise program were able to increase brain size.
The study took 120 people of more mature stature who did not excise frequently. Half were randomly assigned to an aerobic program consisting of walking around a track three times a week for 40 minutes. The other half was assigned to a stretching and weight training program over the course of a year.
Both groups were monitored throughout and had their brains scanned and measured via an MRI machine before and during the experiment.
The group doing aerobic exercises had an average hippocampus volume increase of 2.12 per cent in the left hippocampus and 1.97 per cent in the right. The adults on the weight training and stretching program actually lost hippocampus volume, 1.40 per cent and 1.43 per cent left and right, respectively.
The participants also performed memory tests and the aerobic group scored higher. Furthermore, blood tests were done and higher levels of a brain-derived chemical necessary for learning were detected in the aerobic exercise group.
In a completely different study, physorg.com reported that mice exposed to bacteria during developmental stages develop different behavioral patterns when compared to mice raised in “germ-free” environments.
Rochellys Diaz Heijtz explained to physorg.com, “The data suggests that there is a critical period early in life when gut microorganisms affect the brain and change the behaviour in later life.”
Sven Pettersson, coordinator of the study, added, “Not only are signal substances like serotonin and dopamine subject to regulation by bacteria, synapse function also appears to be regulated by colonizing bacteria.”
Both studies are crucial to understanding how the brain develops and ages. One day, research like this could keep older members of society sharper and prevent memory loss.