A couch potato lifestyle changes your BRAIN: Lack of exercise alters the shape of neurons that control heart function
- A study on rats showed exercise has tangible effects on their brains
- It may have implications for humans as we have similar brain function
- The ‘lazy’ rats’ brains altered and were more susceptible to heart problems
While we know that exercise can create new brain cells and change the way in which it operates, it now appears that a lazy lifestyle can also reshape your mind.
A new study lays bare the possibility that shunning exercise could affect a person’s neurons, impacting not just the brain but potentially damaging the heart as well.
The research, published in the The Journal Of Comparative Neurology, was conducted at Wayne State University School of Medicine and was conducted on rats.
Half of the rats were put in cages with running wheels, while the remaining animals were housed in cages without.
The rats confined with wheels were soon running for around three hours a day, while the others adopted a sedentary lifestyle.
After almost three months, the animals were injected with a dye that colors specific neurons in the brain. In this case, the scientists wanted to mark neurons in the animals’ rostral ventrolateral medulla, the portion of the brain that controls breathing and other unconscious activities, such as regulating blood flow.
The research may have implications for humans as we have the same brain region, which functions in a similar way.
The scientists looked at the brains of their rats and found major differences between the two groups in the shape of some of the neurons in that region of the brain.
The neurons in the brains of the running rats were the same as they had been at the start of the study, but the sedentary rats had grown new ‘branches’, making them more sensitive to stimuli.
HOW EXERCISE GIVES BOTH THE BODY AND MIND A BOOST
Scientists have found a regular gym session could sharpen the mind in exactly the same way as it increases fitness levels in the body, according to Cambridge University scientists.
A regular jog leads to the growth of new cells in the area of the brain which boosts your memory, a study has found.
It is not clear why aerobic exercise triggers the growth of grey matter (known as neurogenesis) but it may be linked to increased blood flow or higher levels of hormones that are released while exercising.
The scientists looked at the brains of their rats and found major differences between the two groups of rats. File pictures
This increased sensitivity can lead to problems, said Patrick Mueller, an associate professor of physiology at Wayne State University who oversaw the new study.
He said ‘overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system contributes to cardiovascular disease.’
If blood vessels constrict too much, too little or too often, it can lead to high blood pressure and damage to the cardiovascular system.
The findings are important because it increases knowledge about the myriad ways in which a lack of exercise can cause heart disease, as well as how inactivity can change the very make-up of our brains.