What Type of Exercise Is Best for the Brain?

Image result for What Type of Exercise Is Best for the Brain?Exercise is just as good for the brain as it is for the body, a growing body of research is showing. And one kind in particular—aerobic exercise—appears to be king.

“Back in the day, the majority of exercise studies focused on the parts of the body from the neck down, like the heart and lungs,” says Ozioma Okonkwo, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “But now we are finding that we need to go north, to the brain, to show the true benefits of a physically active lifestyle on an individual.”

Exercise might be a simple way for people to cut down their risk for memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, even for those who are genetically at risk for the disease. In a June study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Okonkwo followed 93 adults who had at least one parent with Alzheimer’s disease, at least one gene linked to Alzheimer’s, or both. People in the study who spent at least 68 minutes a day doing moderate physical activity had better glucose metabolism—which signals a healthy brain—compared to people who did less.

The brain benefits of exercise go beyond disease prevention. Okonkwo has also shown that people who exercise have greater brain volume in areas of the brain associated with reasoning and executive function. “We’ve done a series of studies showing that increased aerobic capacity boosts brain structure, function and cognition ,” he says, “Other people have found exercise can improve mood.” Okonkwo’s research has also shown that exercise can diminish the impact of brain changes on cognition, not just prevent it. “Exercise is the full package,” he says.

Exercise likely improves brain health through a variety of ways. It makes the heart beat faster, which increases blood flow to the brain. This blood delivers oxygen—a good thing, since the brain is the biggest consumer of oxygen in the body. Physical activity also increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which i s known to help repair and protect brain cells from degeneration as well as help grow new brain cells and neurons, says Okonkwo .

In one study. Joe Northey, a PhD candidate at the University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport and Exercise in Australia, showed that when people ride a stationary bike, they experience increased blood flow to the brain, and within that blood are a range of growth factors that are responsible for cell growth and associated with improved brain function. “Considering exercise can also reduce the risks associated with common lifestyle diseases that impact the brain, such as high blood sugar and hypertension, it is further motivation to try to incorporate exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle,” says Northey.

MORE: The Simple Reason Exercise Enhances Your Brain

Aerobic exercise, like running and swimming, appears to be best for brain health. That’s because it increases a person’s heart rate, “which means the body pumps more blood to the brain,” says Okonkwo. But strength training, like weight lifting, may also bring benefits to the brain by increasing heart rate. The link between resistance training and better brain health is not as established, but research in the area is growing.

For now, Northey recommends a combination of the two. “Combining both is ideal,” he says, for all of the other benefits exercise bestows on the body. “In addition to improving your brain function, you should expect to see improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength, as well as reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes and hypertension amongst other diseases.”

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Exercise, brain training may boost brain health in old age

 Music with a beat makes seniors exercise longer

Exercise, controlling blood pressure and some forms of brain training might preserve brain health.(Kzenon/shutterstock.com)

WASHINGTON — Are you seeking steps to keep your brain healthy in old age?

There are no proven ways to stave off mental decline or dementia. But a new report says there are hints that exercise, controlling blood pressure and some forms of brain training might offer some help.

Without proof, the government should not begin a public health campaign pushing strategies for aging brain health, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said in a report released Thursday.

But the public should be told the evidence is “encouraging,” though inconclusive, the report concluded. That way, people can use the information in deciding whether to invest time and money on different interventions.

The three highlighted strategies “do no harm,” said neuroscientist Alan Leshner, chairman of the National Academies committee. “At least two of them are really good for you” even if the brain link doesn’t pan out.

Scientists know that risky changes in the brain begin decades before symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other dementias become apparent, suggesting there’s a window when people might bolster their cognitive health. But the report says Americans face a “bewildering” array of products and strategies promoted for brain health despite little if any rigorous science to back them up.

The National Institute on Aging asked the prestigious National Academies to review the field. The committee said three interventions should be more closely studied to prove if they really can help:

— Getting high blood pressure under control, especially in middle age. People with hypertension need treatment anyway to prevent heart disease and strokes.

— Increased physical activity. Similar to the blood pressure advice, what’s good for the heart has long been deemed good for the brain.

— Cognitive training, specific techniques aimed at enhancing reasoning, problem solving, memory and speed of mental processing. While immediate task performance may improve, the committee said it’s not clear whether there’s lasting, meaningful benefit.

This is not merely “brain games” on your computer, Leshner said. The committee isn’t backing those costly computer-based programs. Indeed, the government fined one brain training company last year for misleading consumers.

Instead, the best study to date included training done in groups, providing social engagement too. And cognitively stimulating activities include such things as learning a new language, the report noted.

“Since generally keeping intellectually active appears to be good for you, do that,” Leshner advised, and if you’re considering a commercial program, ask the company to see studies backing it.

The Alzheimer’s Association had been awaiting the recommendations, and agreed that “more research is needed to determine what the optimal interventions should be,” said chief medical officer Maria Carrillo. “In the meantime, we recommend that people challenge their brains to maintain brain health.”

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Novel AI technique can help brain overcome fear

Novel AI technique can help brain overcome fear (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)Novel AI technique can help brain overcome fear (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)
Using a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and brain scanning technology, a team of researchers has developed a novel method that can help remove specific fears from the brain.

The new technique that could read and identify a fear memory can pave way of treating patients with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and phobias, the study said.

Neuroscientists, from the University of Tokyo, developed ‘Decoded Neurofeedback’ — which used brain scanning to monitor activity in the brain, and identify complex patterns of activity that resembled a specific fear memory.

In the study, the team included 17 healthy volunteers in whom a fear memory was created by administering a brief electric shock when they saw a certain computer image.

Using brain scanner, the researchers monitored the volunteers’ mental activity and were able to spot signs of that specific fear memory. Using AI algorithms, they also developed a fast and accurate method of reading the fear.

The findings showed that the volunteers’ brains showed brain patterns of that specific fear memory, even when they were resting and not consciously aware of the fear.

Because the researchers could decode these brain patterns quickly, they gave the participants a reward of small amount of money, so that the fear memories would become associated with rewards. However, the volunteers were told that the reward depended on their brain activity, although they didn’t know how.

At the end of the reward therapy that continued for three days, the team showed the volunteers the pictures previously associated with the shocks.

“We could not identify enhanced activity in the amygdala — the brain’s fear center. This meant that we were been able to reduce the fear memory without the volunteers ever consciously experiencing the fear memory in the process,” said lead author Ai Koizumi from the University of Tokyo

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Study opens avenues for treatment of lethal brain cancer

ANI | Nov 18, 2016, 06.20 PM IST

Study opens avenues for treatment of lethal brain cancer (Thinkstock Photos/ Getty Images)Study opens avenues for treatment of lethal brain cancer (Thinkstock Photos/ Getty Images)
According to a recent research published in the Cell journal, researchers have identified a pathway by which cancer cells aggressively spread and grow in the brain, opening up new possibilities for treatment of Glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer.

“The poor prognosis of glioblastoma relates to the near universal recurrence of tumors despite robust treatment including surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy,” said researcher Baoli Hu.

Adding, “Our study shows the potential for a new therapeutic strategy based on targeting the mechanisms allowing glioma to re-grow aggressively in the brain.”

Hu and his colleagues developed a glioblastoma model to locate glioma stem cells, which, like all stem calls, have the ability to become other cell types.

The researchers further found that the gene, WNT5A, when activated, allowed glioma stem cells to transition, leading to invasive tumor growth.

“We uncovered a process by which glioma stem cells mediated by the WNT5A gene become endothelial-like cells,” said Hu.

“These new cells known as GdECs, recruit existing endothelial cells to form a niche supporting the growth of invasive glioma cells away from the primary tumor, and often leading to satellite lesions and disease recurrence,” he added.

Clinical data revealed higher WNT5A and GdECs expression in these satellite lesions and recurrent tumors than was observed in the primary tumors, affirming the tie between WNT5A-mediated stem cell differentiation and glioma cell spread throughout the brain, and contributing to the cancer’s lethalness.

The study established WNT5A as a key factor in glioma stem cells transitioning to GdECs. The team believes this opens up the possibility for a new therapeutic strategy for patients with glioblastoma.

Recent clinical data show the FDA-approved drug, bevacizumab, did not benefit patients as a first line treatment of recurrent glioblastoma by targeting vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGF).

With this new information, the study team proposes an additional therapeutic approach targeting WNT5A and VEGF signaling pathways for recurrent glioblastoma.

“Our preliminary data show that bevacizumab may increase WNT5A-mediated GdECs differentiation and recruitment of existing endothelial cells resulting in no proven benefit to patients with glioblastoma” said Hu.

“This new strategy should improve the outcome of brain cancer patients undergoing VEGF therapy, by limiting new tumor growth and invasion, and disease recurrence,” concluded Hu.

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Mother’s depression may affect kid’s brain development

Mother's depression may affect kid's brain development (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)Mother’s depression may affect kid’s brain development (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)
Depressive symptoms in women during and after pregnancy are linked to reduced thickness of the cortex — the outer layer of the brain responsible for complex thought and behaviour — in preschool-age kids, says a new study.

“Our findings underscore the importance of monitoring and supporting mental health in mothers not just in the post-partum period, but also during pregnancy,” said lead researcher Catherine Lebel of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

The findings, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, suggest that a mother’s mood may affect her child’s brain development at critical stages in life.

Eighteen percent of women experience depression some time during pregnancy, and both peri-natal and post-partum depression have been associated with negative outcomes in children.

But the associations between maternal depression and abnormal brain structure in kids at this age was not known.

For the study, the researchers screened 52 women for depressive symptoms during each trimester of pregnancy and a few months after the child was born.

The women ranged in the presence of symptoms, some with no or few symptoms, and some meeting the screening criteria for depression.

When the children reached about 2.5 to 5 years of age, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure their brain structure.

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Healthy lifestyle improves brain function

Healthy lifestyle improves brain function (Jordan Siemens/Getty Images)Healthy lifestyle improves brain function (Jordan Siemens/Getty Images)
If you exercise before work, or forego fried food for fruits and salads, you can expect brain functions to improve over time, according to a new study.

Living a healthier lifestyle could increase executive function, which is the ability to exert self-control, set and meet goals, resist temptation and solve problems, the study said.

“People who make a change to their health behaviour, like participating in physical activity, eating less processed food, or consuming more fruits and vegetables, can see an improvement in their brain function over time and increase their chances of remaining healthy as they age,” said one of the researchers Julia Allan from University of Aberdeen in Britain.

The researchers analysed the relationship between physical activity and executive function, adjusting for other variables such as age, gender, education, wealth and illness and found evidence that the relationship between the two is bidirectional.

Specifically, individuals with poor executive function showed subsequent decreases in their rates of participation in physical activity and older adults who engaged in sports and other physical activities tended to retain high levels of executive function over time.

Researchers noted that while the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, focused on physical activity and its relationship to executive function, it is likely a positive feedback loop also exists between executive function and eating nutritious foods.

Similarly, it is likely that negative feedback loops also exist, in that unhealthy behaviours such as smoking or drinking too much alcohol will be both a result of and a predictor of declining executive function, the researchers said.

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Volume of your brain predicts your weight loss success

Volume of your brain predicts your weight loss successVolume of your brain predicts your weight loss success
Did you know your brain may hold the key to your success in losing weight?

Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center believe they may have found a way to predict who will be successful in their weight-loss efforts with a quick, non-invasive brain scan. Through the study, the researchers were able to predict weight loss success with 78 percent accuracy based on the brain volume of the study participants.

“A simple test that can predict intentional weight loss success using structural brain characteristics could ultimately be used to tailor treatment for patients,” said co-author of the study Jonathan Burdette. “For example, people identified at high risk for failure might benefit from intensive treatment and close guidance. People identified as having a high probability for success might best respond to less intensive treatment,” he added.

In the study, 52 participants, age 60 to 79, were recruited from the Cooperative Lifestyle Interventions Programs II (CLIP-II) project. The participants were overweight or obese (BMI greater than 28 and less than 42) and had a history of either cardiovascular disease or metabolic syndrome.

All participants had a baseline MRI scan and then were randomized to one of three groups – diet only, diet plus aerobic exercise training or diet plus resistance exercise training. The goal of the 18-month diet and exercise program was a weight loss of 7 to 10 percent of body mass.

Basic brain structure information garnered from the MRIs was classified using a support vector machine, a type of computerized predictive algorithm. Predictions were based on baseline brain gray and white matter volume from the participants’ MRIs and compared to the study participants’ actual weight loss after the 18 months. Brain gray matter volume provided higher prediction accuracy compared with white matter and the combination of the two outperformed either one alone, Burdette said.

The study’s small sample size was a limitation, Burdette said, but the researchers hope to include more people in follow-up studies and broaden the types of interventions to help improve the predictive nature of the test.

“Future studies will investigate whether functional brain networks in association with patterns of brain anatomy may improve prediction, as our recent research has demonstrated that brain circuits are associated with food craving and the self-regulation of eating behavior,” he said.

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How Brain Performs Tough Tasks Decoded

How Brain Performs Tough Tasks DecodedSome people may be better at performing complex tasks as the coordination between different parts of their brains seem to ebb and flow, rather than being static, scientists have found.

According to researchers at Stanford University in the US these fluctuating patterns may explain why some people learn new tasks more quickly.

Analysing the brains at rest and carrying out complex tasks, researchers found that the integration between brain regions also fluctuates.

They used data from the Human Connectome Project to examine how separate areas of the brain coordinate their activity over time, both while people are at rest and while they are attempting a challenging mental task.

For the resting state condition, the researchers used a novel analysis technique to examine functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data – which shows in real time which areas of the brain are active – of people who were not doing any particular task.

The analysis estimates the amount of blood flow in pairs of brain regions and then uses the mathematics of graph theory to summarise the way that the whole network of the brain is organised.

Researchers found that even without any intentional stimulation, the brain network fluctuates between periods of higher and lower coordinated blood flow in the different areas of the brain.

To determine whether these fluctuations were relevant for the function of the brain, they used fMRI data from people who had successfully performed a challenging memory test. Researchers found that the brains of participants were more integrated while working on this complicated task than they were during quiet rest.

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Early Marijuana Use May Disrupt Brain Function, Lower IQEarly,Marijuana,Use,May,Disrupt,Brain,Function,,Lower,IQ

Early Marijuana Use May Disrupt Brain Function, Lower IQ

TORONTO: Early use of marijuana – the most commonly used illegal substance in the world – may cause abnormal brain function and lower IQ, a new study has warned.

Previous studies have suggested that frequent marijuana users, especially those who begin at a young age, are at a higher risk for cognitive dysfunction and psychiatric illness, including depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“Many youth in our program use marijuana heavily and, despite past research, believe it improves their psychiatric conditions because it makes them feel better momentarily,” said Elizabeth Osuch, a scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University in Canada.

“For this reason, we decided to study the effects of marijuana and depression on psychiatric symptoms, brain function and cognitive function,” said Osuch.

Osuch and her team recruited youth in four groups: those with depression who were not marijuana users; those with depression who were frequent marijuana users; frequent marijuana users without depression; and healthy individuals who were not marijuana users.

In addition, participants were later divided into youth who started using marijuana before the age of 17 and those who began using it later or not at all.

Participants underwent psychiatric, cognitive and IQ testing as well as brain scanning.
The study found no evidence that marijuana use improved depressive symptoms; there was no difference in psychiatric symptoms between those with depression who used marijuana and those with depression who did not use marijuana.

In addition, results showed differences in brain function among the four groups in areas of the brain that relate to reward-processing and motor control.

The use of marijuana did not correct the brain function deficits of depression, and in some regions made them worse.

Those participants who used marijuana from a young age had highly abnormal brain function in areas related to visuo-spatial processing, memory, self-referential activity and reward processing.

The study found that early marijuana use was also associated with lower IQ scores.

“These findings suggest that using marijuana does not correct the brain abnormalities or symptoms of depression and using it from an early age may have an abnormal effect not only on brain function, but also on IQ,” said Osuch..

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New Way To Map How Brain Zapping Improves Mental Health

New Way To Map How Brain Zapping Improves Mental Health

Scientists, inluding one of Indian origin, have developed a new technique that can map how zapping the brain with weak electric current improves cognition and treats clinical symptoms – a breakthrough that may help better develop this low-cost brain hack.

A number of people who suffer from chronic pain, epilepsy and drug cravings are zapping their skulls in the hopes that a weak electric current will jolt them back to health.

This brain hacking – “transcranial direct current stimulation” (tDCS) – is used to treat neurological and psychiatric symptoms.

However, tDCS is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and scientists are split on its efficacy, with some calling it quackery and bad science.

Until now, scientists have been unable to look under the hood of this do-it-yourself therapeutic technique to understand what is happening.

Danny JJ Wang, a professor of neurology at the University of Southern California, said his team is the first to develop an MRI method whereby the magnetic fields induced by tDCS currents can be visualised in living humans.

“Our study is the first step to experimentally map the tDCS currents in the brain and to provide solid data so researchers can develop science-based treatment,” he said.

According to Mayank Jog, graduate student at University of California, Los Angeles, tDCS was introduced in 2000.

“Since then, this noninvasive, easy-to-use, low-cost technology has been shown to improve cognition as well as treat clinical symptoms,” Jog said.
The study is a technological breakthrough, said Maron Bikson, a professor at The City College of New York.

The science on tDCS is inconclusive. The brain-hacking technique has been shown to improve symptoms in a wide swath of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including depression, drug cravings and stroke.

Scientists also have pointed to how it enhances learning, affects working memory and imparts other cognitive benefits among healthy people.

However, some people say tDCS is ineffective and even harmful. In rare cases, the technique causes burns where the electrodes were applied.

Researchers have mapped the human brain and demonstrated that putting a positive current (anode) in one area and a negative current (cathode) in another will foster an environment that prompts nearby neurons either to fire more rapidly or slowly, respectively.

Theoretically, putting an anode on the right prefrontal (right side of the forehead) and parietal lobe (above the eyes and behind the right ear) influences the executive network and could enhance attention and motor ability, Wang said.

Stroke patients could apply an anode in the damaged hemisphere and a cathode in the good hemisphere.

This rehabilitative technique may suppress the healthy part of the brain from overcompensating and pushes the damaged area to try to become fit again.

The study appears in the journal Scientific Reports..

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