Aerobic exercise boosts memory in teens

Aerobic exercise may improve memory and is beneficial for brain health and cognition in young adults, a new study has claimed.

The findings by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) suggest that certain hormones, which are increased during exercise, may help improve memory.

Hormones called growth factors are thought to mediate the relationship between exercise and brain health. The hippocampus, a region of the brain crucial for learning and memory, is thought to be uniquely affected by these hormones.

The growth factors brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), have been implicated in the link between exercise and hippocampal function.

BDNF, for example, acts on the nervous system to help regulate communication between existing brain cells (neurons) and stimulate the growth and maturation of new hippocampal neurons and blood vessels.

The researchers recruited healthy young adults, in whom they measured blood hormone levels together with performance on a recognition memory task and aerobic fitness.

They were thus able to correlate the blood hormone levels with aerobic fitness, and subsequently whether there was any effect on memory function.

According to the researchers, BDNF and aerobic fitness predicted memory in an interactive manner, suggesting that at low fitness BDNF levels negatively predicted expected memory accuracy. Conversely, at high fitness resting BDNF levels positively predicted recognition memory. There also was a strong association between IGF-1 and aerobic fitness; however there was no complementary link between IGF-1 and memory function. The study was published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research.

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