From Science Daily:
Learning, memory, and brain repair depend on the ability of our neurons to change with experience. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on December 7 have evidence from a small study in people that exercise may enhance this essential plasticity of the adult brain.
The findings focused on the visual cortex come as hopeful news for people with conditions including amblyopia (sometimes called lazy eye), traumatic brain injury, and more, the researchers say.
“We provide the first demonstration that moderate levels of physical activity enhance neuroplasticity in the visual cortex of adult humans,” says Claudia Lunghi of the University of Pisa in Italy.
“By showing that moderate levels of physical activity can boost the plastic potential of the adult visual cortex, our results pave the way to the development of non-invasive therapeutic strategies exploiting the intrinsic brain plasticity in adult subjects,” she adds.
The plastic potential of the cerebral cortex is greatest early in life, when the developing brain is molded by experience. Brain plasticity is generally thought to decline with age. This decline in the brain’s flexibility over time is especially pronounced in the sensory brain, which displays far less plasticity in adults than in younger people.
Lunghi and colleague Alessandro Sale of the National Research Council’s Neuroscience Institute were inspired to explore the role of physical activity in brain plasticity by experiments that Sale conducted previously in laboratory animals. Those studies showed that animals performing physical activity–for example rats running on a wheel–showed elevated…