Exercise Can Make You Smarter

We all know that exercise is good for us. It's important for our physical health but also for maintaining our brain health now, and as we age. But, what's not well known is that exercise can make you smarter, immediately.

A new study using mice has found that "a short burst of exercise directly boosts the function of a gene that increases connections between neurons in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with learning and memory."

Why do we use rodents as a model for humans? Because rodents have a lot of the same structure and connectivity as exists in human brains."

Most previous research has looked at the effect of sustained exercise on cognitive function. But in this study, the researches wanted to see how the brain would respond "to single bouts of exercise in otherwise sedentary mice that were placed for short periods on running wheels." In humans, this is equivalent "to a game of pickup basketball, or 4,000 steps."

How did the brain respond? It increased the synapses in the hippocampus, a brain region important for learning and memory. This shows that it doesn't take long bouts of exercise to change the brain; short bursts of exercise are enough to encourage structural neuroplasticity and "prime the brain for learning".


Chatzi, C., Zhang, Y., Hendricks, W. D., Chen, Y., Schnell, E., Goodman, R. H., & Westbrook, G. L. (2019). Exercise-induced enhancement of synaptic function triggered by the inverse BAR protein, Mtss1L. eLife 2019;8:e45920 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.45920

Chiba, A. (2015, April 2). Why we use rodents to research the brain. The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved July 8, 2019, from https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/.

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