Does Running Increase Your Brain Capacity?

In a lab study performed on mice, a process known as neurogenesis was observed; this is the process of creating new neurons in the brain. The biological process was observed in eight of 32 male mice when these animals experienced periods of long term endurance exercise; the number of neurons generated in these mice was on average double that of those mice in the control group and the other two experimental groups. The other two experimental groups consisted on mice that ran with the addition of environmental enrichment and mice that were exposed to environmental enrichment without running. The study also suggests that an increase in distance ran correlates with an increase in the number of new neurons; those mice that ran on average two kilometers per day generated 2,000 new neurons, while those mice that ran on average 12 kilometers per day generated 6,000 new neurons.

The team of researchers also measured the effects of running in an enriched environment on neurogenesis. Environmental enrichment involved the rotation of vestibular, auditory, tactile and dietary stimuli in the cage. The combination of running and environmental enrichment lead to an increase is hippocampal neurogenesis; these mice experienced 12 percent more granule layer volume than those mice that ran without enrichment for the duration of the study. Mice that were exposed only to environmental enrichment without running experience no increase in hippocampal neurogenesis. 

When placed in a Morris water maze, mice that were in the increased aerobic exercise group were better able to reach hidden platforms. The mouse is a model organisms in that its genetic makeup is much like that of humans; biological similarities exist between the two species regarding gene regulation and genetic patterns. These model organisms help us better understand the human body and ways to heal and enhance it. This research could possibly be implemented in Alzheimer's and Dementia research.   

If you're not convinced that running could possibly make you smarter through neurogenesis, there are other benefits to running of which you have probably heard such as improving heart conditions, boosting energy levels and decreasing stress. 

References: 1, 2, 3 

Image Source: Cover, 1, 2

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