Media Project: Does exercise truly help our brain functioning ?

For generations people have associated old age with a decline in memory capacity, and a healthy mind to a heathy body. In many instances people mistake old age in general for being responsible for this “decline” when in reality it’s the brain alternations due to age that cause this decline.  Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine compared the levels of activity in different brain regions between young people (18-31years), and old people (55-74 years) while performing a memory task. The trick to this study was to determine if being physically active helps reduce memory deficiency within individuals.

The study was split into two different parts in order to compare how different levels of physical activity affect associative encoding in the brain. The first part of the study required the participants to perform physical activity on a treadmill in order to collect data on their peak oxygen uptake (VO2),  which is a ratio of  gas exchange that occurs while performing physical activity. The data on VO2 was used to determine the cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) of each of the individuals in order to compare them with each of the other participants. The second part of the study required the participants to take on a memory task that involved recalling face-name pairs that were presented to them in pictures during various different time periods with a limited amount of time to recall the information. The researchers also used Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in order to observe the level of brain activation in each of the participants while performing the memory task.

The results demonstrated that older individuals with higher CRF and higher levels of physical activity  have more activation in brain regions involved in learning and memory such as the left hippocampus and bilateral thalamus when compared to younger adults with low VO2 levels. This correlates to the idea that high CRF scores correlate to a diminish in cognitive decline in individuals as they age.

The researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine later correlated their study to one from the Univeristy of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The study done at UCLA collected data on the affects of different levels of physical activity on brain size and how different brain sizes correspond to the possibility of developing some sort of disease related to cognitive decline such as dementia.

The correlation that was found was that higher levels of exercise in older individuals leads to higher brain activity which in turn leads to a decline in the possibility of developing dementia.The researchers at UCLA also determined that the hippocampus which is the part of the brain used during learning activities does actaully grow with more physical activity. The growth of the hippocampus demonstrates that the brain can change in size due to external factors such as daily exercise.

It is important to understand that partaking in physical activity does not mean that an individual can never develope dementia or any other type of cognitive decline, but the process does slow down. Being involved in physical activity does not mean once in a month it has to be a constant routine that is done even at an old age in order to see the benfits later on in life.

Both of these studies show a positive correlation between physical activity and higher memory capacity at an older , which in turn demonstrates that old age is not the only cause  for deficiencies in memory capacity/recall because there are ways of slowing down the process of brain alternations. So exercising has its perks: a fit body and a lower risk of developing dementia so I guess next time you  don’t feel like getting off the couch just remember you are killing two birds with one stone so why not partake in a little daily exercise!

 

 

 

Reflection:

Many times when we read news articles we are quick to judge the author of the article and assume that they are giving false information out to the public for the mere purpose of getting increased rates of viewing. Before completing this assignment I always thought journalist exaggerated the claims in their articles in order to reel people in. After writing this summary of the news article found in the magazine “Psychology Today,” I can say I respect these individuals for taking the time to write these articles. I now have a changed view on these journalist because it was extremely difficult to incorporate the information found on the scholarly research paper into a limited amount of words. It is often times difficult to understand the statistics reported on the research studies in order to properly present their findings without falsely reporting the results. Research reports tend to be extremely long so it is impressive how these journalist are able to compact everything in a well organized and interesting way while still presenting the important parts of the study to their audience. My summary is approximately 300 words shorter than the actaully news article and much less extensive than the scholarly article. I made sure to incorporate some of the information not reported on the news article in order to bring both reports together. I made sure to include enough “important” information to allow people enough basis to understand what the research and its results were about. It was extremely difficult to incorporate/understand the statistics behind the research so even though it was important I decided to leave it out instead of including information I did not understand. It was also very difficult to incorporate information from both because the news article was straight to the point, while the scholarly article extensively reported the results. In all I have learned to appreciate the work these journalist do instead of just assuming they are writing about topics they have no clue about. So next time I read an article from a magazine, newspaper, or blog, I will read the content of the article with more knowledge of how hard it is to present this type of information to a public that might not have any background on the topic , and prevent from falsely informing them.

References:

Scott M. Hayes, Jasmeet P. Hayes, Victoria J. Williams, Huiting Liu, Mieke Verfaellie. FMRI activity during associative encoding is correlated with cardiorespiratory fitness and source memory performance in older adults. Cortex, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2017.01.002

Zaldy S. Tan, Nicole L. Spartano, Alexa S. Beiser, Charles DeCarli, Sanford H. Auerbach, Ramachandran S. Vasan, and Sudha Seshadri. Physical Activity, Brain Volume, and Dementia Risk: The Framingham Study J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2016 : glw130v1-glw130.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201701/physical-fitness-keeps-your-brain-in-good-shape-study-finds%3Famp

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2017.01.002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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