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article imageCan short bouts of exercise boost brain function?

By Tim Sandle     Jul 5, 2019 in Science
Can short periods of exercise help to boost brain function? Possibly, according to new research. This relates to the discovery of a gene that is activated by brief periods of exercise.
The research so far relates only to an animal model; however, the same mechanism is thought to exist in humans and this will represent the next round of research. Neuroscientists, experimenting with rodents, have found that a short burst of activity directly boosts the function of a gene. The exercise-genetic connection seems to increase connections between neurons in the hippocampus (which is the area of the brain linked with learning and memory.)
While there is considerable data showing how exercise is good for the heart, there is less direct evidence about the effect on the brain. To explore the effect on the brain, the scients, based at Oregon Health & Science University, conducted a study involving mice. Training the mice to engage in exercise activities for short periods (such as running on wheels), the scientists measured the mouse brain's response to exercise.
READ MORE: Why the time of day for exercising matters
The research findings revealed how short-term bursts of exercise (this was the human equivalent of a weekly game of basketball, or walking 4,000 steps) triggered an increase in synapses in the hippocampus. Further study of mice genes revealed one primary gene at play, a gene called Mtss1L. This gene had previously been discounted in studies in the brain.
The Mtss1L gene encodes a specific protein which affects the cell membrane. The scientists noted discovered that as this gene is activated, it triggers small growths on neurons called dendritic spines (the point where synapses form). These locales also serve as a storage site for synaptic strength and help transmit electrical signals to the neuron's cell body.
According to lead researcher, Dr. Gary Westbrook, the findings most likely represent another reason why exercise is good for you: "Exercise is cheap, and you don't necessarily need a fancy gym membership or have to run 10 miles a day."
The new research is published in the journal eLife, in a paper titled "Exercise-induced enhancement of synaptic function triggered by the inverse BAR protein, Mtss1L."
More about Genetics, Exercise, brain funciton, cognitive
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