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Exercise reorganises brain to be more resilient to stress

ExerciseDhaka, 04 July, Abnews : Exercise reorganises the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and it is less likely to interfere with normal brain function, scientists claim. Researchers led by Princeton University found that when mice allowed to exercise regularly experienced a stressor exposure to cold water their brains exhibited a spike in the activity of neurons that shut off excitement in the ventral hippocampus, a brain region shown to regulate anxiety.

These findings potentially resolve a discrepancy in research related to the effect of exercise on the brain namely that exercise reduces anxiety while also promoting the growth of new neurons in the ventral hippocampus. Because these young neurons are typically more excitable than their more mature counterparts, exercise should result in more anxiety, not less.

The researchers, however, found that exercise also strengthens the mechanisms that prevent these brain cells from firing. The impact of physical activity on the ventral hippocampus specifically has not been deeply explored, said senior author Elizabeth Gould, Princeton’s Dorman T Warren Professor of Psychology.

By doing so, members of Gould’s laboratory pinpointed brain cells and regions important to anxiety regulation that may help scientists better understand and treat human anxiety disorders, she said. From an evolutionary standpoint, the research also shows that the brain can be extremely adaptive and tailor its own processes to an organism’s lifestyle or surroundings, Gould said.

A higher likelihood of anxious behaviour may have an adaptive advantage for less physically fit creatures. Anxiety often manifests itself in avoidant behaviour and avoiding potentially dangerous situations would increase the likelihood of survival, particularly for those less capable of responding with a fight or flight reaction, she said.

Understanding how the brain regulates anxious behaviour gives us potential clues about helping people with anxiety disorders. It also tells us something about how the brain modifies itself to respond optimally to its own environment, said Gould. The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.



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