The secret to a younger brain may lie in exercising your body, according to a recent research.
Published in the journal NeuroImage, the study shows a direct relationship between brain activity and brain function. It has provided some clues as to how does being physically fit affect our aging brains.
The exciting new study led by Dr Hideaki Soya from the University of Tsukuba in Japan and his colleagues show, for the first time, the direct relationship between brain activity, brain function and physical fitness in a group of older Japanese men.
They found that the fitter men performed better mentally than the less fit men, by using parts of their brains in the same way as in their youth.
As we age, we use different parts of our brain compared to our younger selves. For example, when young, we mainly use the left side of our prefrontal cortex (PFC) for mental tasks involving short-term memory, understanding the meaning of words and the ability to recognize previously encountered events, objects, or people. When older, we tend to use the equivalent parts of our PFC on the right side of the brain for these tasks.
The PFC is located in the very front of the brain, just behind the forehead. It has roles in executive function, memory, intelligence, language and vision. Based on these findings, the researchers correctly predicted that higher aerobic fitness would be associated with a higher left-PFC activity.
Using clever statistical tests called mediation analyses to look at these interactions, the researchers found that aerobically fitter older men can perform better mentally than less fit older men by using the more important brain regions when needed. In fact, the fitter older men are using parts of their brains in the same way as when they were younger.
For the new study, researchers had 60 men between the ages of 64 and 75 undergo an exercise test to measure their aerobic fitness.
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