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Exercise Increases Brain Function

Exercise Increases Brain Function

This is an article from Medscape, a internet publication for General Practitioners which is a fantastic overview of hard research which keeps doctors up on the state of the art consensus in various fields such as cancer epidemiology and brain functioning with a lot of emphasis on the increasing problems associated with older people.

It is the opposite of "bro science", it's a publication for doctors (I'm not one.)

I pasted it in because there's a registration requirement but unless you're tin-foiled against what practicing doctors want to see because "it's all a conspiracy by the drug companies" you might want to subscribe.

From the Medscape in my inbox today.

Effective treatment for cognitive dysfunction is the Holy Grail in research for most brain diseases. With the exception of stimulants for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), there is little evidence for any pharmacological intervention to restore cognitive dysfunction once a brain disease is diagnosed. Although future success of new drugs should not be ruled out yet, the many negative results so far suggest that drug interventions may be better to prevent cognitive dysfunction in brain diseases than to treat them once present.

In sharp contrast to the disappointing findings of pharmacological interventions, are the promising results of studies assessing the potential of physical exercise to improve cognition. Both aerobic training and resistance training have the potential to improve cognition, while the combination of both yields the strongest improvement in cognitive functioning.[1] The effect on cognitive functioning has been extensively demonstrated in healthy subjects[2] as have been the effects on brain plasticity,[3] gray and white matter volume,[4] and functional connectivity.[5] In patients with brain diseases, improved cognition after exercise therapy has been reported for patients with Alzheimer's disease,[6] Parkinson's disease,[7] major depression,[8] multiple sclerosis,[9] traumatic brain injury,[10] stroke,[11] ADHD,[12] and Huntington's disease.[13] Importantly, exercise also has the potential to slow progression of brain diseases, improve mood, self-esteem, anxiety, and sleep,[14,15] making it an excellent tool for secondary and tertiary prevention.

Since the beneficial effects of exercise are observed in many different brain disorders, the neurobiological mechanisms underlying these effects are expected to involve general aspects of brain function that are affected in all diseases. This indeed seems to be the case. Firstly, increased cardiac output improves cerebral circulation and optimizes oxygen extraction and glucose uptake of neurons and glia cells.[16] Secondly, neurogenesis is improved, most pronounced in the hippocampal dentate gyrus,[17] which may be secondary to increased neurotrophic factors such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)[18] and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor.[19] Further, moderate exercise reduces the inflammatory status of the brain, by increasing levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10, among others,[20] although stringent exercise can have a negative impact on the immune system.[21] Recently, the route to explain the association between cognition and exercise was further elucidated. Expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma coactivator-1α1 is increased when skeletal muscles become active. This substance enhances the conversion of the tryptophan metabolite kynurenine to kynurenic acid, thereby lowering kynurenine levels in the blood. Through this mechanism, muscle activity restores the immune balance in the brain.[22]

Given the extensive documentation of the positive effects of exercise on cognitive function, it is surprising that so few studies have investigated its potential for patients with schizophrenia. In 2012, Knöchel et al[20] reviewed studies that used exercise treatment for patients with schizophrenia. They could include only 7 studies, most of them reporting an improvement in symptom severity in the intervention group. Unfortunately, cognition was not systematically assessed in any of these papers. Since 2012, 4 more studies assessed the influence of exercise on schizophrenia,[23–26] only one of them included cognitive measures and yielded significant improvements in the exercise group.[24]

This field is clearly in its infancy, given the modest sample size of the studies so far, the shortcomings in methodology and the lack in standardizing effects of fitness. In addition, research into the effect of exercise is hindered by the inherent open label nature, as there is no well-matched sham condition available. Moreover, drop-out rates are generally high and only few studies attempt to capture the mechanisms underlying the effect of exercise on the brain. In this issue of Schizophrenia Bulletin, the scanty literature on exercise for patients with schizophrenia is extended by 3 manuscripts. Malchow et al[27] included 3 groups: patients with schizophrenia who were offered endurance training for 3 months, augmented in the last 6 weeks with cognitive remediation, a similar group of patients who were provided table soccer for 3 months, again augmented with cognitive remediation in the last 6 weeks and a healthy control group, given the same interventions as the first patient group. They showed superior effects of endurance training over table soccer on symptom severity, depression, and some (but not all) cognitive tasks. The combination of physical exercise and cognitive remediation is new and exciting, yet it blurs the effects of exercise per se. The second study by Svatkova et al[28] assessed the effect of biking for 6 months on the integrity of white matter connections in patients and controls, as compared with life as usual. In both groups, exercise improved fiber integrity, especially in the motor circuit, while the patients in the control group showed deterioration of fiber integrity over the 6 months of the study. Kimhy et al[29] demonstrated a 15% improvement in cognition as assessed with the Matrix Consensus Cognitive Battery in the exercise group as compared with 2% decline in the control group. They further showed that increases in the serum levels of BDNF could explain only a small percentage of the improvement in cognition. These three manuscripts once more show that beneficial effects of exercise are ubiquitous, ie, present in patients and controls and manifest in several different areas and are associated with improvements in both brain structures and physical health.

Although the potential of exercise to benefit patients with schizophrenia is promising, the implementation in daily practice is no mean feat. Simply informing patients about the advantages of exercise will not be enough. Even in the healthy population, life style is not easily changed, even though the benefits of activity and fitness are well known. For patients who already experience lack of energy, flat affect, lack of motivation and drive—as part of their disorder—it is even more difficult to engage in fitness training. Side effects from medication, comorbid affective and anxiety symptoms, and low income further complicate the necessary step to start and maintain physical activities. Yet this is the challenge we should take on, as the advantages of this intervention are clear and side effects are few. How can we make physical activity attractive and doable for people with schizophrenia? In order to induce a lasting change in habit, individuals need to believe that a desired outcome can be attained. This outcome differs per patient and therefore tailor-made coaching should be offered. For some, the combination of sports and music may help. For others, a gym teacher who makes a good role model can be helpful. Social support from family or friends can provide the necessary push to leave the house and head for sports. Team sports, such as basketball, may be a means to improve physical condition and social networks at the same time. Perhaps a monetary gain can help patients to regularly perform exercise? Clearly, this field needs more investigation, especially with well-sampled randomized controlled trials, that creatively overcome the problem of amotivation. In the mean time, clinics might consider investing in sports facilities, such as exercise rooms and sports teachers to trigger some enthusiasm for patients during their stay in the hospital. As the benefits of exercise are not restricted to schizophrenia, various patient groups including those with depression and dementia may benefit from these facilities.

Exercise Increases Brain Function

I've said this before, but eating right and exercise is a true panacea to most mental ills (ADHD, depression ,etc). People laugh at me when I say this, but the jokes on them. I haven't gone to the gym in almost 3 weeks due to moving to a new country and after the initial enthusiasm wore off I've been in a depressed funk. Time to get back in!

I wish I knew this growing up as it would have made school and teenage angst significantly easier to deal with.

Exercise Increases Brain Function

This is a good article. It shows that some things are moving in the right direction but we also need to use common sense. We can’t always wait on the bureaucratic and sometimes corrupt medical, food, and drug industries to prove things that should be common sense.

The brain might be complex but it is still a physical part of the body. If exercise improves the health and functionality of the heart, lungs, muscles, bones, skin and everything else then why would the brain be different?

I remember listening to a neuroscience expert talk about how researchers (who already knew that aerobic training improves brain function) had recently discovered that resistance training "surprisingly" improves brain function similar to how aerobic training does. Strength is partially a function of the nervous system and the brain is part of the nervous system so I don't think a neuroscience PhD should be "surprised" that resistance training improves brain function.

I don't want to be the tin-foiled hat conspiracy theorist guy but I have a difficult time understanding why "This field is clearly in its infancy". Why aren't exercise, nutrition, and sleep the first few variables that researchers analyze when they are looking for solutions to brain issues from injuries to mental health problems?

Exercise Increases Brain Function

I've actually heard about this too. My friend suffered an anoxic brain injury a few years ago, totally destroyed his short-term memory. Immediately after he had trouble remembering shit for more than 5 minutes.

The doctors suggested exercise to improve it, especially cardio. Apparently more oxygen goes to the brain during exercise, which can help recovery from head injuries. His memory improved a ton, although never fully. I'm not sure how much this had to do with exercise, and what was due to normal recovery and all the mental exercises he did. Either way it can't hurt.

Quote: (09-19-2015 12:06 PM)The Beast1 Wrote:  

I've said this before, but eating right and exercise is a true panacea to most mental ills (ADHD, depression ,etc). People laugh at me when I say this, but the jokes on them. I haven't gone to the gym in almost 3 weeks due to moving to a new country and after the initial enthusiasm wore off I've been in a depressed funk. Time to get back in!

I wish I knew this growing up as it would have made school and teenage angst significantly easier to deal with.

Exercise is so important. Food too. It's easy to get into cycles of eating shit and not exercising, and my mood always goes to shit. From there it can be hard to get back to baseline.

I really think most forms of depression and anxiety come from living an unhealthy lifestyle. I'm sure there are tons of legitimate cases, but most would be better treated with an hour of exercise a day, fresh air, and healthy eating.

Exercise Increases Brain Function

A lot of people look down on walking. However it is one of the best things for better mood and creativity. I really recommend adding some walking to your routine, whether outside or on the treadmill.

Dr Johnson rumbles with the RawGod. And lives to regret it.

Exercise Increases Brain Function

I figured I'd continue on this thread when Medscape reports something really good.

This week they're discuss probiotics, something which sounded totally "fringe" to me but looks like it is legit because of a double blind study described here.

I've started eating a small yogurt daily and now my feces float which according to macrobiotic lore is good. I think it means there's fermentation going on which causes some type of small gas bubbles. ;-)

Medscape Medical News > Conference News
'Psychobiotic' May Help Ease Stress, Improve Memory

CHICAGO — Taking a probiotic strain of Bifidobacterium longum reduced physiologic and psychological stress and led to a modest improvement in memory in a small pilot study of healthy men.

The study builds on preclinical studies that identified this B longum strain as a "putative psychobiotic" with beneficial effects on stress-related behaviors, physiology, and cognitive performance in mice, said Gerard Clarke, PhD, from the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, University College Cork, Ireland.

He presented the study findings October 18 during a press briefing at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) 2015 Annual Meeting.

"The emerging concept of the gut microbiome as a key regulator of brain and behavior represents a paradigm shift in neuroscience. Precise targeting of the microbiome-gut-brain axis with psychobiotics — live microorganisms with a potential mental health benefit — is a novel approach for the management of stress-related conditions," the study team notes in a meeting abstract.

In the study, 22 healthy male volunteers (mean age, 25.5 years) ingested a capsule containing B longum NCIMB 41676 daily for 4 weeks and a matching placebo capsule for another 4 weeks.

At the start of the study and after 4 weeks of probiotic or placebo, the researchers assessed acute stress (subjective and cortisol output) using the cold pressor test and daily stress using a validated online questionnaire (Cohen Perceived Stress Scale). They assessed cognitive performance using the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery and neurological activity via resting electroencephalography (EEG).

Subtle Benefits

In response to acute stress, B longum NCIMB 41676 led to a reduction in cumulative output of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as a blunted increase in subjective anxiety. On the questionnaire, the men reported being less stressed and anxious while taking the probiotic. They also showed subtle improvement on a visual memory task after receiving the probiotic, as well as altered EEG output.

"These clear but subtle benefits are in line with the predicted impact from preclinical screening platforms and highlight the promise of precision-microbiome manipulation strategies," the researchers conclude. "Further studies are warranted to evaluate the benefits of this putative psychobiotic in relevant stress-related conditions and to unravel the mechanisms underlying such effects."

"This study represents a proof of principle," Dr Clarke said. "The question we are asking now is, can we advance this further and can we use these psychobiotics to deal with the stressors that we encounter on the roller coaster of life, or develop further psychobiotics for patients with stress-related disorders such as depression or anxiety."

"Today's findings continue to highlight the importance of the interaction between the gut and the brain," briefing moderator Robert Yolken, MD, from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, said in a conference statement. "A better understanding of this link will inform new strategies for preventing and treating many psychological disorders."

The microbiome is a "very good target" because it can be manipulated, Dr Yolken explained during the briefing.

"It's very difficult in some ways to change the human genome that we get from our mothers and fathers, but we do have ways of changing the microbiome. We have antibiotics, we have probiotics, and changes in diet will do this as well. This is really a very exciting area because it might allow us to finally do something about these terrible diseases," Dr Yolken said.

The study was supported by the Science Foundation Ireland, the Health Research Board of Ireland, and the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme. The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Society for Neuroscience (SfN) 2015 Annual Meeting . Abstract 162.04. Presented October 18, 2015.

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