Until a few years ago, our brains were considered as incapable of developing new neurons, because when adulthood is reached, neuronal development stops and in the third age neurons begin to lose, resulting in degenerative mental diseases such as Alzheimer's. Atrophy of the hippocampus, a fundamental part of the brain, is largely linked to the progressive loss of memory during normal human aging and occurs mainly in people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as the aforementioned Alzheimer.
Some beneficial discoveries
But in a wonderful experiment conducted in the 90s and using mice, there were surprises when these animals, running on a wheel, produced the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus, a part of the brain linked to memory.
These experiments in these rodents encouraged the initial impulse to further deepen in investigating how exercise could neutralize this decrease.
Subsequently, other studies where the same line has been followed, determined that exercise also has very good effects on the brains of us, human beings, especially as we age, and may even help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and others.
neurodegenerative conditions went further to relate these wonderful effects to the production of a protein called neurotrophic factor and acting on the brain, producing this blessed substance throughout the body, including brain, and stimulates both the growth and survival of new neurons.
It was proven, also in humans, how aerobic exercise leads to the production of neurotrophic factor and it increases the size and connections of key areas of the brain, including the hippocampus. And so exercise can benefit both the hippocampus and its cognitive functions.
The trained ones
As part of an experiment carried out with older adults in the United Kingdom and published in the year 2019 in the Brain Imaging and Behavior journal, it was shown that the most time spent on moderate to vigorous physical activity possessed larger volumes of their respective hippocampus.
Nevertheles and as part of more pleasant surprises, clear links were also found between aerobic exercise and the benefits to other parts of the brain, including the expansion of the so-called prefrontal cortex.
The increase in this region has been related to more acute executive cognitive functions, which include aspects of planning, decision-making and multitasking, skills similar to memory with a tendency to decrease with progressive aging, even more degraded in the full implementation of Alzheimer's disease .
The increase in connections between existing neurons, instead of the birth of new neurons, is already considered responsible for the beneficial effects of exercise in the prefrontal cortex and other brain regions beyond the hippocampus
Brain functions to increase with exercises
The brain uses the information stored in the memory in the short and long term, to allow them to make decisions and plan their routes, cognitive tasks supported by the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, among other parts of the brain.
All these multitasking are partially controlled by the prefrontal cortex, which also tends to decrease with age. The cerebral atrophy and associated cognitive declines that commonly occur during aging, at least and partly related to sedentary habits derived from the many tasks of modern society and the many hours of no use dedicated to screens.
By Alberto Quirantes