Exercise Makes You Smarter

It was long believed that after your youth was gone, your brain stopped going through neurogenesis, that is, stopped “getting smarter.”

From NYT:

Conventional wisdom had long held that animal (and human) brains weren’t malleable: after a brief window early in life, the brain could no longer grow or renew itself …

Gage’s mice proved otherwise. Before being euthanized, the animals had been injected with a chemical compound that incorporates itself into actively dividing cells. During autopsy, those cells could be identified by using a dye. Gage and his team presumed they wouldn’t find such cells in the mice’s brain tissue, but to their astonishment, they did. Up until the point of death, the mice were creating fresh neurons. Their brains were regenerating themselves.

All of the mice showed this vivid proof of what’s known as “neurogenesis,” or the creation of new neurons. But the brains of the athletic mice in particular showed many more. These mice, the ones that scampered on running wheels, were producing two to three times as many new neurons as the mice that didn’t exercise.

2 or 3 times!  There’s more:

This spring, neuroscientists at Columbia University in New York City published a study in which a group of men and women, ranging in age from 21 to 45, began working out for one hour four times a week. After 12 weeks, the test subjects, predictably, became more fit. Their VO2 max, the standard measure of how much oxygen a person takes in while exercising, rose significantly.

But something else happened as a result of all those workouts: blood flowed at a much higher volume to a part of the brain responsible for neurogenesis. Functional M.R.I.’s showed that a portion of each person’s hippocampus received almost twice the blood volume as it did before. Scientists suspect that the blood pumping into that part of the brain was helping to produce fresh neurons. …

Those with the biggest increases in VO2 max had the best scores of all.

AKA, the wimpy training you get from those “Globo Gym” trainers isn’t really gonna do you as much good as a solid, and truly tough routine.

Train Hard, Get Smart!

The researchers also found that higher levels of aerobic fitness corresponded to better standardized test scores among a set of Illinois public school students.

PE class is absolutely essential to a thriving student body … but it has to be a class dedicated to actual exercise, not the ridiculous junk that most PE classes are in practice.

Gage, by the way, exercises just about every day, as do most colleagues in his field. Scott Small at Columbia, for instance , likes nothing better than a strenuous game of tennis. “As a neurologist,” he explains, “I constantly get asked at cocktail parties what someone can do to protect their mental functioning. I tell them, ‘Put down that glass and go for a run.’ ”

Advertisements

One response to this post.

  1. […] even more effective ones) involve exercise and diet (for more on these topics check out my fitness blog). This entry was written by saij and posted on July 9, 2008 at 12:47 pm and filed under Science […]

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: