Saturday, April 16, 2011

New findings point to a type of 'Miracle-Gro for the Brain' - but if exercise helps the brain, why aren't all jocks geniuses

New findings that show brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is “like Miracle-Gro for the brain" were among the very interesting info that came from the American College of Sports Medicine15th Annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition in Anaheim.

Terry Eckmann, Ph.D., briefed attendees on recent findings, explaining that BDNF  helps to grow new neurons in the hippocampus and helps the transmission of information across the synapses of neurons.
Fueling these enhanced brain processes, quite literally, are elevated levels of oxygen and glucose which the cardiovascular system – strengthened by exercise – can deliver to the brain. The brain uses about 20 percent of the body’s oxygen and glucose.

Scientists have also found that repetitive gross motor movement strengthens the branching of dendrites, which conduct electrochemical stimulation among neurons. “Dendrites receive messages from surrounding brain neurons, and the more dendrites, the more information can be transmitted and stored,” said Eckmann.

Recent studies show that students with higher fitness levels score higher on academic tests and show an improved ability to focus. Scientists have also documented the ability of exercise to help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Exercise balances brain chemicals, hormones and system functions,” said Eckmann. “Research suggests that every system of the body functions more efficiently with regular exercise. Exercise is medicine and can make a difference in disease prevention and management.”

You can decide for yourself why, if this is true, athletes aren't the smartest people in the world.  

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