Your brain on E

(That’s E for Exercise)

“It is now clear that voluntary exercise can increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and other growth factors, stimulate neurogenesis, increase resistance to brain insult and improve learning and mental performance. Running has brain changing impact. I totally believe this, as more than any other health statistic, high intensity exercise has wholly influenced my mental/eating approach to my health and diligent commitment to exercise.”

Cotman and Berchtold, 2002

I’m not a runner, though. I do stair master-which is my “exhale.” I suppose it doesn’t matter: a run for 45 min or stair master for 45. My knees (and hips and back oh my!) can handle the stairs, not the sidewalk, too for some reason. I can actually hear the word “badunkadunk” when my feet hit the ground; I’m just not built to run!

I’m not an expert, of course, however the internet is replete with empirical studies investigating and supporting the claim that physical exercise improves cognitive function, below link to interesting articles on the topic:

It seems that physical activity improves cognitive function and motor function-and quickly. Within days of voluntary exercise, neuronal changes can be detected.

“Voluntary wheel-running activates a persistent firing pattern (known as theta-rhythm) in the rat hippocampus, and this firing pattern is dependent on medial septal cholinergic and GABAergic neurons [29–32].” Cotman and Berchtold 

Below, is a breakdown on BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) (Please note: the info below was pulled directly from the Cotman and Berchtold article-which also lists full citations). This summary is for my own interest and future reference:

“BDNF is neurotrophic and neuroprotective: BDNF promotes the differentiation, neurite extension and survival of a variety of neuronal populations in culture including hippocampal, cortical, striatal, septal and cerebellar neurons.  Intraventricular BDNF infusion protects the hippocampus and cortex from ischemic damage and protects septal cholinergic neurons from axotomy-induced loss.

BDNF can enhance brain plasticity: BDNF gene regulation and protein release are activity-dependent. BDNF enhances synaptic transmission. Mice deficient in BDNF show impaired LTP and present learning deficits that are reversed with BDNF replacement. BDNF stimulates synaptophysin and synaptobrevin synthesis. Mice deficient in BDNF signaling (trkB mutants) show decreased synaptic innervation and reduced levels of synaptic vesicle proteins, including synapsin I, synaptophysin and synaptotagmin.”

(FYI, Girls actress and my idol, Jemima Kirke describes her exercise philosophy in her typically beautiful way.)