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It is well-known that regular exercise immensely benefits the body. These benefits may range from helping to trim excess body fat, increasing memory retention, easing breathing difficulties, and many others. However, it is unclear what precise biochemical changes are responsible for the enhanced functions.
A recent study using groups of lab mice subjected to a week-long exercise program sheds more light to this mystery. One group was made to run on a wheel (“runner group”), while the others were left to rest. In the end, the group that went through sustained exercise was able to pick up some critical skills such as holding fast to a rotating rod, or rapidly moving across a beam balance, thereby outperforming the others. Further, a scientific examination revealed that during the exercise, certain neurotransmitters (brain chemical) switched on.
In the brain, there is a region called caudal pedunculopontine nucleus (cPPN) responsible for relaying sensory information to the cerebral cortex. Here, acetylcholine - the neurotransmitter responsible for muscle activation was replaced with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the mice, a neurotransmitter involved in relaxation and skill learning. This explains why the “runner” group could perform better than control group. So what inferences can be drawn from the result?
The study proves that frequent body exercise can go a long way to improve our mental performance, including skill learning. It also suggests that physical exercise may be employed as supplementary treatment of certain mental-related disorders like depression.
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Article Credit: Michael Adesanya