Exercise activates memory neural networks
A new University of Maryland
study of healthy older adults shows that exercise increases activation in the
brain circuits associated with memory - including the hippocampus - which
shrinks with age and is the brain region attacked first in Alzheimer's disease.
Regular exercise can increase the volume of the hippocampus, according to the study. Theresearch team measured the brain activity using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) of healthy participants aged 55-85 who were asked to perform a memory task that involves identifying famous names and non-famous ones. The action of remembering famous names activates a neural network related to semantic memory, which is known to deteriorate over time with memory loss. This test was conducted 30 minutes after a session of exercise on an exercise bike and on a separate day after a period of rest. Participants' brain activation while correctly remembering names was significantly greater after exercise in comparison to the activation after rest. Just like a muscle adapts to repeated use, exercise may flex cognitive neural networks in ways that promote adaptations over time and lend to increased network integrity and function and allow more efficient access to memories.