Running Boosts Brainpower
Going for a Jog Builds Brain Cells, Study Finds
Jan. 19, 2010 -- Running may do more than improve your cardiovascular
fitness and overall physique. It might actually make you smarter.
Scientists reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences say that running has a profound impact on the hippocampus, the
part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Adult mice that
voluntarily used running wheels increased their number of brain cells and
performed better at spatial learning tests than non-exercising mice, they
Spatial learning refers to the ability to navigate through or discriminate
between the unfamiliar -- such as telling the difference between two patterns,
or finding your way around a new city. Spatial memory refers to how you
remember the location or layout of the objects in the space around you. You
record spatial memories after processing key sensory information, such as what
you see and hear. Animals use spatial memory to remember where their food bowl
is located. Mice, for example, learn this by scrambling through a maze to find
the food at the end.
In the latest spatial learning experiment, researchers learned that the
running mice were better able to tell the difference between the locations of
two adjacent identical stimuli. This ability was closely linked to an increase
in new brain cell growth in the hippocampus. Ongoing mice experiments have
repeatedly shown that running boosts the number of new brain cells in this
area. Until the late 1990s, neuroscientists believed that we did not grow new
brain cells after birth.
Today, mounting evidence continues to reveal that exercise triggers
significant physiological and structural changes in the brain that are
beneficial to cognitive function.