How to build a brain by walking

Exercise can refresh and refresh the white matter of our brain, potentially improving our ability to think and remember as we grow older. New research on walking, dancing and brain health.. It shows that the white matter that connects and supports the cells of our brain modifies itself as people become more physically active. On the other hand, people who tend to sit down tend to have white matter fried and shrunk.

The findings highlight the dynamism of our brain and how it constantly changes in response to our lives and movements.

The idea that the adult brain is adaptable is a fairly recent discovery from a scientific point of view. Until the late 1990s, most researchers believed that the human brain was physically fixed and inflexible after early childhood. We were thought to have been born, most of the brain cells we would have had so far, and couldn’t make any more. In this scenario, the structure and function of our brain only declines with age.

But science has thankfully advanced and corrected its pessimistic predictions. Complex studies using special pigments to identify newborn cells We have shown that some parts of our brain produce neurons deep in adulthood. This is a process known as neurogenesis. Subsequent follow-up demonstrated that exercise amplifies neurogenesis.For example, when a rodent runs, it is pumped out. 3-4 times more than new brain cells As an inactive animal, while in people Regular exercise leads to a larger brain volume. In essence, this study shows that our brain retains lifelong plasticity and changes in the same way as we do, depending on how we move.

These past studies of brain plasticity have generally focused on gray matter. The gray matter contains the famous small gray cells, or neurons, that enable and create thoughts and memories. Little research has been done on the white matter, the wiring of the brain. The white matter is composed primarily of fat-enclosed nerve fibers called axons, which connect neurons and are essential for brain health. However, it is an aging that becomes fragile, thin, and can develop small lesions as we grow older, which can be a precursor to cognitive decline. Worryingly, it has been thought to be relatively static, almost non-plastic, or capable of adapting to changes in our lives.

However, Agnieszka Burzynska, a professor of neuroscience and human development at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, suspected that science might underestimate white matter. “It was like a gray matter ugly, ignored sister-in-law,” she said, ignored and misunderstood. She thought that white matter was as plastic as gray matter and could reshape itself, especially when people started to move.

So, for a new study published online on NeuroImage in June, she and her graduate student Andrea Mendez Colmenares and other colleagues set out to recreate the white matter of people. They started by gathering about 250 older men and women who tend to sit but are otherwise healthy. The lab tested the current aerobic fitness and cognitive skills of these volunteers and used a sophisticated form of MRI brain scan to measure white matter health and function.

We then divided the volunteers into groups, one of which started a stretch and balance training monitoring program three times a week to act as an active control. The other started walking together three times a week actively for about 40 minutes. And the last group started dancing and met three times a week to learn and practice line dancing and group choreography. After 6 months of training, all groups returned to the lab and repeated the tests from the beginning of the study.

And for many, their bodies and brains have changed, scientists have discovered. As expected, the walkers and dancers were a good fit. More importantly, their white matter appeared to have been updated. The new scan showed nerve fibers in specific parts of the brain appearing larger and shrinking tissue lesions. These desirable changes were the most common among pedestrians. Pedestrians are now performing better on memory tests. In general, dancers didn’t.

On the other hand, members of the control group who did not do aerobic exercise had poor white matter health, thin axons, tattered, and poor cognitive scores after 6 months.

For exercisers, these discoveries are “extremely promising,” he said. Burzynska says. She said that regardless of our age, the white matter remains plastic and active, and active walks several times a week may be sufficient to polish the tissue and delay or prevent memory loss. Says.

Of course, the changes in the brain were subtle and somewhat inconsistent. Dr. Burzynska and her colleagues, she says, expected that dance would result in greater white matter and cognitive improvement than walking, for example, because dance involves more learning and practice. However, walking is more powerful, suggesting that aerobic exercise itself is of paramount importance to white matter health. “The dancers spent their time looking at the instructor in each session and not moving too much,” says Dr. Burzynska. “It probably affected their results.”

Research participants were also over 60 years old, inactive and exercising for only 6 months. It is unclear whether the brains of young and healthy people will benefit as well, or whether long-term aerobic exercise will help significantly improve memory and thinking. But for now, Doctor. Burzynska says the results provide a “powerful case for getting up and moving” for our white matter.

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