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Exercise Reorganizes the Brain

Posted Aug 16 2013 10:08pm

A discrepancy in research related to the effect of exercise on the brain has existed: namely, that exercise reduces anxiety while also promoting the growth of new neurons in the ventral hippocampus. Because these young neurons are typically more excitable than their more mature counterparts, exercise should result in more anxiety, not less. Timothy Schoenfeld, from Princeton University (New Jersey, USA), and colleagues have revealed that exercise also strengthens the mechanisms that prevent these brain cells from firing.  Employing a mouse model, the team observed that when mice allowed to exercise regularly experienced a stressor exposure to cold water their brains exhibited a spike in the activity of neurons that shut off excitement in the ventral hippocampus, a brain region shown to regulate anxiety. Further, the research team pinpointed brain cells and regions important to anxiety regulation that may help scientists better understand and treat human anxiety disorders. The researchers found that running prevents the activation of new neurons in response to stress. In sedentary mice, stress activated new neurons in the hippocampus , but after 6 weeks of running, the stress-induced activation of both new and mature neurons disappeared. Taken collectively, the study authors submit that their data suggest that exercise “improves anxiety regulation by engaging local inhibitory mechanisms in the ventral hippocampus.”

Schoenfeld TJ, Rada P, Pieruzzini PR, Hsueh B, Gould E.  “Physical exercise prevents stress-induced activation of granule neurons and enhances local inhibitory mechanisms in the dentate gyrus.”  J Neurosci. 2013 May 1;33(18):7770-7.

  
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Anti-Aging Forum MLDP Join A4M
Tip #192 - Stay Connected
Researchers from the University of Chicago (Illinois, USA) report that social isolation may be detrimental to both mental and physical health. The team analyzed data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, a nationwide US study involving 3,000 men and women, ages 57 to 85 years. They arrived at three key findings regarding the relationships between health and different types of isolation:

• The researchers found that the most socially connected older adults are three times as likely to report very good or excellent health compared to those who are least connected, regardless of whether they feel isolated.

• The team found that older adults who feel least isolated are five times as likely to report very good or excellent health as those who feel most isolated, regardless of their actual level of social connectedness.

• They determined that social disconnectedness is not related to mental health unless it brings feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Separately, Rush University Medical Center (Illinois, USA) researchers studied 906 older men and women, testing their motor functions (including grip, pinch strength, balance, and walking) and surveying their social activity, for a period of 5 years. Those study participants with less social activity were found to have a more rapid rate of motor function decline. Specifically, the team found that every one-point decrease in social activity corresponded to an increase in functional aging of 5 years, translating to a 40% higher risk of death and 65% higher risk of disability.

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