Study Tactic: Running?


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               woman-running-at-sunset.jpg Running and other forms of exercise have long been accepted to be good for the body. Exercise is linked to weight loss and lowered levels of blood pressure. What isn't widely known is the connection between improved brain function and exercise.

                Neuroscientists at Cambridge University have found evidence that running stimulates the growth of new grey matter in the brain that makes a positive impact on mental ability. Participants who ran for a couple days when previously conducted a sedentary lifestyle showed signs of new growth of hundreds of thousands of new brain cells which helped improve memory. New brain cells were found specifically in the region of the brain that influences memory formation and recall. This research leads to the idea that exercise, particularly jogging, is crucial to keeping the brain healthy by stimulating new brain cell growth. Another study conducted in 2008 had the same outcome of results on rats. Rats that were given a spinning wheel in their cage showed significantly more new brain cells after 8 weeks than rats who did not run.

                This research is especially important for people who suffer from depression symptoms. Some antidepressant drugs work by stimulating the growth of new brain cells. Scientists haven't pin pointed the reason why cell growth is encouraged with anaerobic activity, but they think it might be linked to the increase of blood flow and hormone levels.

                This new research is especially important for students in college because memory recall skills are particularly important for almost any major. Do any of you find yourself to do better on a test during a good week of working out?

3 Comments

I think this is really interesting, especially because I'm a runner! However, I'm not sure that I've noticed a difference in memory improvement or performing better on a test because of a run. Also, I read the study released by Cambridge, and I thought it was interesting that they did this study on mice. I'm not sure if all scientists have to begin with animals--especially since they were removing brain tissue--but this also seems like it could be applicable for a random, single-blind test for humans (although I'm not sure who would be willing to have brain tissue removed). If the doctors did not know who was running, they would be able to study this and verify whether or not this is true!

If this is true, it is very upsetting considering I used to be a devoted runner, but haven't had much time since starting college.

Your blog made me curious about why running would promote neurogenesis. I know you reported that the scientists in the Cambridge University study were unsure and hypothesize the new grey matter being relative to an increase in blood flow/hormone levels. After reading through the article you live linked to, I saw the researchers also suggested stress reduction as a result of running may also contribute to the new brain cells. Running can inhibit the release of a hormone called cortisol that is linked to stress.

I searched the internet for a more clear-cut explanation of this neurogenesis, but it seems to remain a mystery!

In high school, I hated running. Just last year when I was stressed studying for my midterms my mom told me to go for a run to clear my head. I did it and it worked. I came back to studying more refreshed and focused and able to absorb more information. I am now an avid runner and try to run up to three miles every day. I find that I am more alert and focused and feel better throughout my day. But I can't help but think that this could all be coincidental and running doesn't actually give you MORE brain cells, just helps you focus for a little while longer. Maybe just the increase in blood flow is what is helping memory and the increase in brain cells is just correlational...

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