By: Northwestern Medicine Health & Fitness Staff
An article from the New York Times highlights how exercise proves to successfully support memory and thinking—particularly in older adults. Several studies have shown that regular physical activity helps slow the usual loss of brain volume, which may help to prevent age-related memory loss and possibly lower the risk of dementia.
In the new study published in January 2021 in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Mark Gluck, and his colleagues decided to see what happened inside the brains and minds of much older people if they began to work out. Mark is a professor of neuroscience at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J. He also serves as the director of the Aging & Brain Health Alliance at Rutgers. 34 volunteers had a brain scan and completed cognitive test before and after exercise. Seventeen of them had been exercising in the meantime; the rest had not. Comparisons revealed subtle differences.
“Their scans showed more-synchronized activity throughout their medial temporal lobes than among the sedentary group, and this activity was more dynamic. Portions of the exercisers’ lobes would light up together and then, within seconds, realign and light up with other sections of the lobe. Such promiscuous synchronizing indicates a kind of youthful flexibility in the brain, Dr. Gluck says, as if the circuits were smoothly trading dance partners at a ball. The exercisers’ brains would ‘flexibly rearrange their connections,’ he says, in a way that the sedentary group’s brains could not.”
“The exercisers performed better than before on a test of their ability to learn and retain information and apply it logically in new situations. This kind of agile thinking involves the medial temporal lobe, Dr. Gluck says, and tends to decline with age. But the older exercisers scored higher than at the start, and those whose brains displayed the most new interconnections now outperformed the rest.”
For more information about this exciting study and its finding, please refer to the references below.
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