Scientists find an exercise ‘sweet spot’ to reverse cognitive decline

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In a new study from the University of Queensland, researchers discovered an exercise ‘sweet spot’ that may reverse cognitive decline.

They found 35 days of voluntary physical exercise improved learning and memory.

They tested the cognitive ability of elderly mice following defined periods of exercise and found an optimal period or ‘sweet spot’ that greatly improved their spatial learning.

The researchers also discovered how exercise improved learning.

They found that growth hormone (GH) levels peaked during this time, and they were able to demonstrate that artificially raising GH in sedentary mice also was also effective in improving their cognitive skills.

They discovered GH stimulates the production of new neurons in the hippocampus—the region of the brain critically important to learning and memory.

Dementia is the second leading cause of death of all Australians, and with no medical breakthrough, the number of people with dementia is expected to increase to around 1.1 million by 2058.

The findings provide further proof that loss of cognitive function in old age is directly related to the diminished production of new neurons.

It underlines the importance of being able to activate the neurogenic stem cells in the brain that we first identified 20 years ago.

The team were able to explore how the production of new neurons changed the circuitry in the brain using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

They were able for for the first time to identify the critical changes in the structure and functional circuitry of the hippocampus required for improved spatial learning.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about common exercises that could protect against cognitive decline, and findings that low vitamin D may speed up cognitive decline.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about cognitive problems linked to COVID-19 infection, and results showing that doing this may improve older people’s cognitive function in daily life.

The study is published in iScience. One author of the study is Professor Perry Bartlett

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