Can Physical Exercise Improve Cognitive Abilities?

Posted on February 5, 2015

Photo: flickr

Improvement in brain function associated with moderate physical activity has been noticed in both growing children and older adults. The cognitive benefits of physical exercise also last for decades. Parents and teachers can take cue from these findings and ensure they encourage kids to be more active and weave in sports and games within the curriculum.

Scientists have decoded how physical activity affects the brain. A study published in 2009 has shown that exercise directly improves the flow of blood in the brain and enhances the functionality of various neurotransmitters involved in cognitive processes. This study also points to the mood-enhancing effects of physical exercise that may indirectly exert a positive effect on cognitive functioning.

According to the findings of other researchers, endurance exercise triggers the production of a muscle protein called FNDC5 in the body. This protein is released into the bloodstream as a molecule called irisin. The presence of this molecule stimulates the genes responsible for learning and memory. Right now, scientists are somewhat unclear just how the mechanism works, but they believe that exercise triggers the production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF regulates inflammation, improves the transmission of signals within cells, and regulates the functions of the synapses.

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Source material from The Brain Blogger

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