For the first time, researchers from the University of Sydney believe they have now pinpointed how physical exercise and cognitive training (computer games and activities) can thicken parts of the brain, which may help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.
For a while now, neuroscientists have known certain exercises can either delay or prevent the development of degenerative diseases. However, until this point, it was unknown why this was the case.
A study published in the Molecular Psychiatry cited that magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated physical resistance exercises for the brain resulted in a thickening of grey matter.
Further studies also showed that cognitive brain training strengthened the connectivity between the hippocampus, being the brain’s memory centre and the frontal lobe, which is the problem-solving part of the brain. These two areas of the brain in particular are hugely affected by early Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Michael Valenzuela, lead researcher on the project, from University of Sydney, told The Sydney Morning Herald that the results showed real potential for certain exercises to slow and even prevent the development of Alzheimer’s.
100 candidates, who were at high risk of developing a degenerative disease, were split into four groups for the study. They were required to participate in two weekly exercises for a period of six months.
One group were required to do computer-based exercises that tested their memory and problem-solving abilities. Another group did resistance exercises with weights and gym equipment. The third group did both the computer and physical exercises, whilst the fourth group formed the control of the exercises.
The group that benefited the most from the program was group number one, who were undergoing computer-based exercises only. Results for this group revealed that their brain showed changes in the hippocampus part of their brain, which is the lateral ventricle part of the brain, thought to be the centre of emotion, memory and the autonomic nervous system.
By continuing these studies, researchers hope to one day be able to delay or prevent the advancement of degenerate brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
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