A short burst of moderate exercise enhances the consolidation of memories in both healthy older adults and those with mild cognitive impairment, scientists with UC Irvine's Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory have discovered.
Most research has focused on the benefits of a long-term exercise program on overall health and cognitive function with age. But the UCI work is the first to examine the immediate effects of a brief bout of exercise on memory.
In their study, UCI postdoctoral scholar Sabrina Segal and neurobiologists Carl Cotman and Lawrence Cahill had people 50 to 85 years old with and without memory deficits view pleasant images – such as photos of nature and animals – and then exercise on a stationary bicycle for six minutes at 70 percent of their maximum capacity immediately afterward.
One hour later, the participants were given a surprise recall test on the previously viewed images. Results showed a striking enhancement of memory by exercise in both the healthy and cognitively impaired adults, compared with subjects who did not ride the bike.
"We found that a single, short instance of moderately intense exercise particularly improved memory in individuals with memory deficits," Segal said. "Because of its implications and the need to better understand the mechanism by which exercise may enhance memory, we're following up this study with an investigation of potential underlying biological factors."
She believes the improved memory may be related to the exercise-induced release of norepinephrine, a chemical messenger in the brain known to play a strong role in memory modulation. This hypothesis is based on previous work demonstrating that increasing norepinephrine through pharmacological manipulation sharpens memory and that blocking norepinephrine impairs memory.
In the more recent research, Segal and her colleagues discovered that levels of salivary alpha amylase, a biomarker that reflects norepinephrine activity in the brain, significantly increased in participants after exercise. This correlation was especially strong in people with memory impairment.
"The current findings offer a natural and relatively safe alternative to pharmacological interventions for memory enhancement in healthy older individuals as well as those who suffer from cognitive deficits," Segal noted. "With a growing population of the aged, the need for improvement of quality of life and prevention of mental decline is more important than ever before."
Study results appear in the November issue (Volume 32, Number 4) of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. UCI's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and the National Institute of Mental Health (grant number 575082), a division of the National Institutes of Health, supported the research.
University of California - Irvine: http://www.uci.edu
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Free-living songbirds show increased stress hormone levels when nesting under white street lights. But different light spectra may have different physiological effects as this study finds, suggesting that using street lights with specific colour spectra may mitigate effects of light pollution on wildlife
Scientists identify the condition aphantasia, in which people cannot create images in their head
The dust in our homes contains an average of 9,000 different types of fungi and bacteria, a study suggests.
A mosquito can bear up to 23 times its total body weight on each leg, which is crucial for landing on water – the insect's secret is way it stands
Tropical species with smaller geographical ranges are more likely to die out in a warming climate than those that can adapt by ‘invading’ new regions
Most people think of bacteria as germs, signs of filth, or unwanted bringers of disease. Slowly, that view …
The gloomy octopuses crowded at Jervis Bay, Australia, appear to spit and throw debris such as shell at each other in what could be an intentional use of weapons
Therapies based on hormones that make us more trusting enhance our natural placebo effect – a finding that could alter the way clinical trials are conducted
The blind, hairless babies born recently at Washington D.C.'s National Zoo are completely dependent on their mothers—who can sometimes accidentally crush them.
The poop-hoarding insects have an amazingly advanced internal GPS that allows them to navigate by day or night.