Monday, October 24, 2016

What kind of exercise is best for the brain?

Reynolds points to work by Nokia et al. asking what kind of exercise is most effective in stimulating the generation of new brain cells in the hippocampus, important in learning and memory. They devised, for rats, tasks analogous to the human exercise practices of weight training, high-intensity interval training, or sustained aerobic activity (like running or biking). Many more new nerve cells appeared in the brains of rats doing sustained activity (which may generate more B.D.N.F - Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) than in those doing high-intensity interval training, and weight training had no effect. Here is the abstract:
Aerobic exercise, such as running, has positive effects on brain structure and function, such as adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) and learning. Whether high-intensity interval training (HIT), referring to alternating short bouts of very intense anaerobic exercise with recovery periods, or anaerobic resistance training (RT) has similar effects on AHN is unclear. In addition, individual genetic variation in the overall response to physical exercise is likely to play a part in the effects of exercise on AHN but is less well studied. Recently, we developed polygenic rat models that gain differentially for running capacity in response to aerobic treadmill training. Here, we subjected these low-response trainer (LRT) and high-response trainer (HRT) adult male rats to various forms of physical exercise for 6–8 weeks and examined the effects on AHN. Compared with sedentary animals, the highest number of doublecortin-positive hippocampal cells was observed in HRT rats that ran voluntarily on a running wheel, whereas HIT on the treadmill had a smaller, statistically non-significant effect on AHN. Adult hippocampal neurogenesis was elevated in both LRT and HRT rats that underwent endurance training on a treadmill compared with those that performed RT by climbing a vertical ladder with weights, despite their significant gain in strength. Furthermore, RT had no effect on proliferation (Ki67), maturation (doublecortin) or survival (bromodeoxyuridine) of new adult-born hippocampal neurons in adult male Sprague–Dawley rats. Our results suggest that physical exercise promotes AHN most effectively if the exercise is aerobic and sustained, especially when accompanied by a heightened genetic predisposition for response to physical exercise.

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