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OHSU researchers study physical and mental impacts of exercise on the brain

NEW ORLEANS, La. Exercise appears to allow for better blood vessel development in the brain and allow a person to be more mentally engaged. Those are the conclusions of a study partially conducted by Oregon Health & Science University researchers. The results will be presented Saturday Nov. 8 at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in New Orleans.

"While we already know that exercise is good for the heart and reduces the incidence of obesity, this study shows exercise can literally cause physical changes in the brain," explained Judy Cameron, Ph.D., a scientist in the divisions of Reproductive Sciences and Neuroscience at the OHSU Oregon National Primate Research Center. "Furthermore, we believe the study results show exercise causes a person to be more 'engaged' and provides another reason for Americans to make physical activity part of their daily regimen. This is especially true in the case of older Americans with whom decline in mental function over time is a common occurrence."

For this research project, scientists had to come up with a novel way to study exercise. They required conditions where extraneous environmental factors that could impact brain function were limited as much as possible. These factors include smoking, obesity and drinking, tendencies commonly found but difficult to regulate in human studies. To limit the effect of these factors on study results, researchers chose to conduct the research using nonhuman primates.

In all, 24 monkeys participated in the studies. The animals were separated into three groups: a "running" group, which exercised on treadmills for a set distance five days a week for 20 weeks. A second group did not exercise during this period, and a third group exercised for 20 weeks and then remained sedentary.

Following the exercise period, scientists then measured the volume of small blood vessels, called capillaries, in the motor cortex region of the brain in all three animal groups.
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Contact: Jim Newman
newmanj@ohsu.edu
503 494-8231
Oregon Health & Science University
8-Nov-2003


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