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Updated: January 19, 2010 17:30 IST

Jogging can improve memory: Study

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According to scientists at Cambridge University, regular jogging leads to growth of new cells in the area of the brain which in turn boosts the memory. Photo: N. Sridharan
The Hindu According to scientists at Cambridge University, regular jogging leads to growth of new cells in the area of the brain which in turn boosts the memory. Photo: N. Sridharan

Running regularly not just helps one shed those extra weight, it also does wonders for the mind, claims a new study.

According to scientists at Cambridge University, regular jogging leads to growth of new cells in the area of the brain which in turn boosts the memory.

Timothy Bussey, a behavioural neuroscientist and the lead researcher, said their study on mice showed that aerobic exercise triggers the growth of grey matter (known as neurogenesis).

It may be linked to increased blood flow or higher levels of hormones that are released while exercising, the scientists said.

For their study, they examined two groups of mice, one which had unlimited access to a running wheel while the other did not.

“After a few days left alone, they put both groups of mice through a series of memory tests on a computer screen. It displayed two identical squares side by side, and if they nudged the one on the left with their nose they received a sugar pellet reward, while the one on the right yielded nothing,” the Daily Mail reported.

The mice who had been running were almost twice as successful as those in the control group at picking the correct square, it said.

Bussey said: “At this stage of the experiment, the two memories the mice are forming of the squares are very similar.

It is when they have to distinguish between the two that these new brain cells really make a difference.”

“We know exercise can be good for healthy brain function, but this work provides us with a mechanism for the effect,” added Bussey.

The scientists, who examined brain tissues taken from the rodents, found that the running mice had grown fresh gray matter during the experiment.

Tissue samples from the dentate gyrus part of the brain, one of the few regions of the adult brain which can grow new cells, showed on average 6,000 new brain cells had been created.

Previous studies on people with depression have found their symptoms can improve if they exercise regularly. It is also thought exercise might also reduce stress, which inhibits new brain cells through a hormone called cortisol.

Some anti-depressant drugs work by encouraging the growth of new brain cells.

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