Sustained aerobic exercise may promote neurogenesis

Scientists found rats running voluntarily more often for long distances had higher rates of new brain connections than sedentary rats.
By Stephen Feller  |  Feb. 8, 2016 at 2:10 PM
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HELSINKI, Finland, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Sustained patterns of aerobic exercise can promote the development of new connections in parts of the brain associated with learning and memory, according to new research in Finland.

Scientists at the Academy of Finland found resistance training and high intensity aerobic exercise were not as effective at promoting neurogenesis, and also that genetics could play a role in how much of an effect exercise has on neuron formation.

Previous research has also shown exercise to encourage neurogenesis, though what type of exercise best promoted new neurons had not been determined in those studies.

For the study, published in the Journal of Physiology, researchers exposed rats bred for low and high responses to physical training to several forms of exercise, measuring the effects of each on their hippocampal neurogenesis for six to eight weeks.

Compared to sedentary rodents, animals with a high response to aerobic training that voluntarily ran on a wheel had two to three more new neurons than those with a low response to aerobic training at the end of the study period. Rats engaged in resistance training and high impact training saw only minor development of neurons.

In a press release, researchers said future work is needed to confirm whether aerobic exercise also can improve development of neurons and preconditions for learning in humans the way it does in rats.

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