Study: Intense physical exercise boosts memory

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A team of researchers found that six weeks of intense exercise – short periods of interval training lasting 20 minutes – showed significant improvements in so-called high-interference memory, which for example example, allows us to distinguish our car from another of the same make and model.

Heisz et al examined the combined effect of physical exercise and cognitive training on memory and neurotrophic factors in healthy young adults. Image credit: Sasin Tipchai.

“Improved high-interference memory from exercise may help explain the previously established link between aerobic exercise and better academic performance,” said study lead author Dr. Jennifer Heisz. , McMaster University.

“At the other end of our lives, as we reach our senior years, we might expect to see even greater benefits in people with memory impairment caused by conditions such as dementia.”

For the study, 95 participants did six weeks of physical training, combined exercise and cognitive training or no training (the control group who did neither and remained sedentary).

The combined exercise and training groups improved performance on a high interference memory task, unlike the control group.

In contrast, neither of the two training groups improved their general recognition performance, suggesting that physical training selectively increases high-interference memory that may be related to hippocampal function.

People who have experienced greater improvement in their physical condition through physical training (i.e., and survival of brain cells).

These high exercise responders also had better high interference memory performance due to combined exercise and cognitive training compared to exercise alone, suggesting that potential synergistic effects may depend on the availability of neurotrophic factors.

“Our results reveal a potential mechanism for how exercise and cognitive training can modify the brain to support cognition, suggesting that the two work together through complementary pathways in the brain to improve high-interference memory,” said the Dr Heisz and his co-authors. .

The to study is published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

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Jennifer J. Heisz et al. 2017. The effects of physical exercise and cognitive training on memory and neurotrophic factors. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 29 (11): 1895-1907; doi: 10.1162 / jocn_a_01164


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