A remarkable new study, published on Nature Metabolism, reveals an uncanny connection between exercising and memory.
The study, conducted on mice, has uncovered that exercising can help bolster brain health significantly due to the muscles releasing a hormone known as irisin.
This hormone has previously been found in the body of humans and is typically produced in copious quantities during the event of physical exercising.
Recent research has found that irisin can significantly improve neuron health, cognition and memory in healthy and those with a rodent’s version of Alzheimer’s disease.
These findings can modify the trajectory of memory loss in mental ailments like dementia, ageing and Alzheimer’s.
Erstwhile research has also proved that exercising can lead to the formation and creation of new neurons in the brain, which is beneficial for overall brain health.
This also heralds the integration, survival and maturity of more neurons into the nervous system, which can bode well for an individual’s thinking and remembering process.
Some epidemiological studies have also suggested that active people are less likely to contract these illnesses than largely sedentary ones.
Scientists have observed that exercising can engender a specific biochemical environment inside our bodies, which can be conducive to permeating the virtually impenetrable blood-brain barrier and, consequently, improving brain health.
Irisin: A Wondrous Hormone
A large group of scientists at Harvard Medical School and other institutions had discovered the new hormone produced by muscles of running rats in an experiment.
The official nomenclature for it was irisin, named after the messenger god Iris of Greek mythological origins.
It was found that irisin homed in on the fat tissue and it was imbibed by the fat cells, setting off a chain of biochemical reactions resulting in the transformation of ordinary white fat into brown fat.
Brown fat has been determined to be metabolically more active as compared to white since its anabolism helps cut down calories faster.
There were two sets of mice for the given experiment — one being able to congenitally produce irisin and the other not. They were of varied subcategories — young and old, healthy and ill ones.
Some of the mice were made to run on wheels for a particular duration of time. The results came out be to be astonishing — those mice who were physically active for a certain period showed improved encephalonic activity as compared to their sedentary, indolent counterparts.
Furthermore, the new brain cells or neurons in the active mice seemed to be much more integrable into the nervous as they comprised larger number of synapses and dendrites.
For the uninitiated, synapses are structures in a neuron which allow the transmission of signal and hence, stimuli from one neuron to another (betwixt axon terminal and a dendrite) by an electrical/chemical process, often involving the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
On the other hand, dendrites are like protoplasmic tendrils which receive the electrochemical signals and facilitate the propagation to the cell body of the neuron.
All this is indicative of better memory functioning due to efficacious neural network.
The study also strongly averred that when irisin was present, the neuron formation became even more robust.
This is due to the fact that it decremented inflammations in animals with dementia, something that is typically associated with rapid loss of memory.
It was also found that irisin was able to move freely to and fro the blood-brain barrier, as the hormone was found in the brains of mice which didn’t have any ability to produce it themselves, and hence, were externally injected.
It might be developed as a drug to help those with the aforementioned neurological disorders like dementia and Alzeimer’s, Dr Spiegelman, one of the researchers participating in the study has noted.
Even though it was empirically done on rats, it still remains to be seen how it can bode for humans. But, Dr Wrann, a colleague of Dr Spiegelman in this research, is optimistic as he believes that it proves that “exercising is a strong regulator of brain