Tags: exercise | brain | mental

Exercise and the Brain: Results May Vary

Tuesday, 22 May 2012 11:09 AM

Dartmouth University researchers who are studying how exercise affects the brain have found physical activity has different impacts on the memory of adults and adolescents, and that genetic factors may determine the extent of its benefits for some people.
Dartmouth investigator David Bucci noted it’s well known that exercise “clears the mind” and can boost blood flow to the brain. But he said scientists believe “there is much more going on” and that exercise may affect people’s brains differently, depending on their age and genetic makeup.
"In the last several years there have been data suggesting that neurobiological changes are happening,” said Bucci, an associate professor in Dartmouth’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. “[There are] very brain-specific mechanisms at work here."
Bucci’s past research has explored the beneficial effects of exercise on memory and such conditions as attention deficit hyperactivity.
His new research, published in the journal Neuroscience, has identified mechanisms through which exercise improves learning and memory, particularly in adolescents whose brains are still growing and developing.
"The implication is that exercising during development, as your brain is growing, is changing the brain in concert with normal developmental changes, resulting in your having more permanent wiring of the brain in support of things like learning and memory," said Bucci, whose new study involved Dartmouth students and local residents. "It seems important to [exercise] early in life."
His research also found that a person’s genetic makeup may determine to what degree exercise can boost his or her brain function – findings that may one day allow doctors to determine which patients with attention deficit problems “would respond to exercise as a treatment and which ones wouldn't," based on DNA analysis.
Bucci said the notion that exercise is good for mental health is not a huge surprise: "The interesting question in terms of mental health and cognitive function is how exercise affects mental function and the brain."

© HealthDay

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Age and genetic factors may influence how physical activity affects and benefits mental health.
Tuesday, 22 May 2012 11:09 AM
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