Exercise Your Brain PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Karel Nunnink   
For many years, the medical community denied the possibility that adult brain cells could regrow. But researchers now know that neurogenesis, the process of brain cell regeneration, does occur, and it plays a very important role in mitigating stress and improving sexual and reproductive function -- but it all hinges on getting plenty of regular exercise.

Published in the journal Cell Transplantation the new study out of Hong Kong explains that the process of neurogenesis is spurred by exercise, which also tends to reduce stress and promote better sexual and overall health. After all, brain cells play an important role in the health of the entire body, and if exercise helps induce their regrowth, the healing potential is limitless.

"Research has shown that exercise can improve mood and cognition and has also demonstrated that a deficit in adult neurogenesis may result in depressive disorders," said Dr. Kwok-Fai So from the University of Hong Kong. "Our research is aimed at examining the relationship between exercise as a way of combating stress, and the possibility that exercise may promote neurogenesis, and that neurogenesis functions as the mechanism of benefit."

Stress has a severe negative effect on the hippocampus, also known as the "neurogenic zone," of the brain. The more serious forms of stress, including depression and post-traumatic brain injury, can actually cause the hippocampus to shrink. But the team observed that exercise effectively helps to both improve the "plasticity" of the hippocampus and spur the growth of new neurons, which ultimately can reverse cell damage.

Likewise, the new neurons created as a result of exercise also benefit the subventricular zone (SVZ) zone of the brain that plays a key role in reproductive function and potentially even maternal behaviors.

"These reviews show that the process of neurogenesis has far-reaching implications, including a beneficial exercise-induced response to stress and some degree of involvement with sexual behavior and reproduction," added Prof. Shinn-Zong Lin from the China University Medical Hospital. "The studies reinforce the importance of a naturally occurring process that, until recently, was believed to be impossible."


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