Study: Exercise Makes You Smarter
New research shows that exercise improves brain function and makes you ‘smarter’, according to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).
Neuroscientists at OHSU discovered that a short burst of exercise directly boosts the function of a gene that increases connections between neurons in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with learning and memory.
Co-senior author of the study Gary Westbrook, M.D., said: “Exercise is cheap, and you don’t necessarily need a fancy gym membership or have to run 10 miles a day.”
Previous research in animals and in people shows that regular exercise promotes general brain health.
However, it’s hard to untangle the overall benefits of exercise to the heart, liver and muscles from the specific effect on the brain.
For example, a healthy heart oxygenates the whole body, including the brain.
“Previous studies of exercise almost all focus on sustained exercise,” Westbrook said.
“As neuroscientists, it’s not that we don’t care about the benefits on the heart and muscles but we wanted to know the brain-specific benefit of exercise.”
The study found that short-term bursts of exercise promoted an increase in synapses in the hippocampus.
Scientists made the key discovery by analyzing genes that were increased in single neurons activated during exercise.
In the next stage of research, scientists plan to pair acute bouts of exercise with learning tasks to better understand the impact on learning and memory.