Running and brain plasticity: Another reason for ambulation's benefit in the elderly.

It's been shown that walking and other regular physical exercise seems to slow cognitive decline in elderly persons with possible early dementia, and that the protective effect of ambulation seems more robust than just daily practice of cognitive tasks alone. This seemed a bit surprising when first found: with most body functions, it is practicing the function we want to enhance that helps most. Not, perhaps, with cognition in the elderly.

Now, we have a study in mice that suggests that running in mice enhances recovery of cortical plasticity and thus brain function. Although the study was of visual function, it may apply to cognition as well. Perhaps exercise has an effect on brain plasticity that enhances neuronal regeneration?



Sensory experience during locomotion promotes recovery of function in adult visual cortex

Authors: Megumi Kaneko, Michael P Stryker


Published June 26, 2014

Cite as eLife 2014;3:e02798

Recovery from sensory deprivation is slow and incomplete in adult visual cortex. In this study, we show that visual stimulation during locomotion, which increases the gain of visual responses in primary visual cortex, dramatically enhances recovery in the mouse. Excitatory neurons regained normal levels of response, while narrow-spiking (inhibitory) neurons remained less active. Visual stimulation or locomotion alone did not enhance recovery. Responses to the particular visual stimuli viewed by the animal during locomotion recovered, while those to another normally effective stimulus did not, suggesting that locomotion promotes the recovery only of the neural circuits that are activated concurrent with the locomotion. These findings may provide an avenue for improving recovery from amblyopia in humans.

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