Exercise Benefits Brain Function in Older Adults According to Study

Exercise Benefits Brain Function in Older Adults According to Study

We’ve learned about the widely known benefits of exercise. It enhances and maintains your overall health and wellness as well as physical fitness. It can also help in increasing body growth and development, strengthening muscles, weight loss, preventing cardiovascular diseases and aging.

But if you think that’s all there is to exercise, you are largely mistaken. A new study reveals it may benefit the brain function in older adults, and prevent or delay the onset of dementia.

Brain Effects of Exercise

In a paper published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Diseases, researchers revealed that exercise was associated with a change in the blood flow in key regions in the brain. This, in turn, resulted in an improved cognitive performance in a group of healthy older adults and a group diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

The researchers had two groups of older adults go through an exercise training program. The program consists of 30-minute sessions of moderate-intensity treadmill walking or aerobic exercises, four days per week for a total of 12 weeks.

One group was composed of those with mild cognitive impairment while another was composed of healthy older adults without MCI. Before and after the program, the participants underwent aerobic fitness testing, neuropsychological assessment, and an MRI scan.

Both groups yielded positive results. The healthy group had increased cerebral blood flow in the frontal cortex after 12 weeks, which significantly improved their performance on cognitive tests.

On the other hand, the MCI group had decreased cerebral blood flow in the left anterior cingulate cortex and left insula after 12 weeks. This resulted in their improved performance on a test used to measure memory and cognitive health.

How Reduced Blood Flow Increases Brain Function

According to Dr. J. Carson Smith, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology in the University Of Maryland and one of the authors of the study, when we begin to experience subtle memory loss, the brain responds to the crisis by trying to “compensate” the inadequate brain function by increasing the blood flow.

However, while increased cerebral blood flow can be beneficial in normal brain situations, in those diagnosed with MCI, it gives the opposite effect. Dr. Smith states that there is evidence that it may bring further memory loss to those in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dr. Smith explains the result of the study:

“A reduction in blood flow may seem a little contrary to what you would assume happens after going on an exercise program. But after 12-weeks of exercise, adults with MCI experienced decreases in cerebral blood flow. They simultaneously improved significantly in their scores on cognitive tests.”

These findings provide evidence that exercise can improve brain function in older adults—whether or not their cognitive abilities are already in decline.

Dr. Smith added that that exercise can positively affect “biomarkers of brain function in a way that might protect people by preventing or postponing the onset of dementia.” He highlighted how exercise influences the brain’s neural networks which are linked to memory loss and amyloid accumulation—both signs of MCI and Alzheimer’s.


Rocking Motion Aids to Better Sleep and Memory in Adults

Rocking Motion Aids to Better Sleep and Memory in Adults

Parents always use the trick of putting kids into a hammock and swaying it gently to put them to sleep—and it has always been effective. However, if you think you don’t need it now that you are older, you are largely mistaken. New studies reveal the benefits of rocking motion to adults. It does not just aid sleep it also boosts memory.

Rocking Motion in Sleep

In a study published in Current Biology, researchers investigated the effects of rocking motion to sleep as well as its associated brain waves throughout the night. The study was headed by Laurence Bayer and Sophie Schwartz from the University of Geneva, Switzerland.

The researchers observed 18 healthy young adults which underwent sleep monitoring in the lab. They first had the volunteers get used to sleeping in the lab before observing them for two nights. On one night they slept on a gently rocking bed. On the other night, they slept on an identical bed that wasn’t moving.

Results revealed that volunteers slept better on a rocking bed. They were able to fall asleep faster and deeper. They also stayed longer in non-rapid eye movement sleep and woke up less.

Bayer explains:

“Having a good night’s sleep means falling asleep rapidly and then staying asleep during the whole night. Our volunteers — even if they were all good sleepers — fell asleep more rapidly when rocked and had longer periods of deeper sleep associated with fewer arousals during the night. We thus show that rocking is good for sleep.”

Sleep is very important for our body functions. During the non-rapid eye movement sleep, our body does its daily repair of cells and tissues. However, as we grow older, we sleep less deeply. Aging is also associated with shorter sleep.

Rocking Motion in Memory

Researchers also assessed how better sleep, and thus, the rocking motion influenced memory. They had the volunteers study word pairs before sleep and tested them the next morning. The results of the tests where higher when they were rocked during sleep.

Bayer and his colleagues highlighted that the rocking motion affects brain oscillations during sleep It helped synchronize neural activity in the networks of the brain, which resulted in both sleep and memory consolidation.

On the other hand, a separate study investigated the effects of rocking motion on other species. In a study led by Paul Franken, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, they found that mice slept better with a rocking motion. In fact, their most efficient rocking frequency is four times higher than in humans. However, they did not find any evidence of sleeping more deeply.

The researchers explain the study could provide new insights into developing a treatment for those people with sleep disorders.

Franken stated:

“Current tools, such as optogenetics, can help us decipher which structures, or even neuronal populations, receive the stimulus from the otolithic organs and transfer it further to the structures of the sleep circuitry. Mapping the network of communication between the two systems will provide with a basic understanding, as well as novel clinical targets to cope with sleep disorders, like insomnia.”