Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy

  • Why Does Exercise Boost the Brain?

Why Does Exercise Boost the Brain?

Jul 28 2019 Read 1377 Times

It's no secret that exercise is good for the body, actively burning calories, strengthening muscles and releasing feelgood endorphins. Now, a new study from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) has confirmed short periods of exercise can enhance brain function.

Following studies on mice, a team of neuroscientists discovered a cognitive gene known as Mtss1L that's activated by brief bouts of exercise. The findings were published online in the journal eLife and explain how stimulating the gene increases neurological connections in the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with learning and the formation of memories.

For co-senior author Gary Westbrook, the results are proof that exercise is not only good for the body, but also the brain. "Exercise is cheap, and you don't necessarily need a fancy gym membership or have to run 10 miles a day," he asserts.

Exploring the complex relationship between exercise and brain function

The findings also offer new insight into the complex relationship between exercise and brain function. "Previous studies of exercise almost all focus on sustained exercise," says Westbrook. "As neuroscientists, it's not that we don't care about the benefits on the heart and muscles but we wanted to know the brain-specific benefit of exercise."

To investigate the benefits of exercise, Westbrook and his team placed mice on running wheels for short periods of time and measured the brain's response. They found that following bursts of exercise the hippocampus experienced an increase in synapses. Specifically, they noted an increase in the activity of Mtss1L, a gene that encodes a protein that supports membrane curvature and the growth of dendritic spines on neurons. This promotes the formation of synapses and could explain why exercise boosts brain function.

"That was the most exciting thing," said co-lead author Christina Chatzi, Ph.D.

Tackling the global obesity crisis

Next, the team plan to study how acute bouts of exercise influence learning and memory tasks. For Westbrook and Chatzi, the project could help promote the importance of daily exercise and tackle the global obesity epidemic. In the UK, around one in four adults and one in five children are classified as obese. While working out isn't always fun, the potential to heighten brain function could be a major incentive for people who usually shy away from daily exercise.

Want to know more about the latest scientific breakthroughs? Don't miss '67th ASMS Conference on Mass Spectrometry and Allied Topics held in Atlanta from June 2nd to 6th, 2018 at the Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, Georgia USA.'

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