Bucci is quick to point out that "the teams of both graduate and undergraduates are responsible for all this work, certainly not just me." Michael Hopkins, a graduate student at the time, is first author on the papers.
Early on, laboratory rats that exhibit ADHD-like behavior demonstrated that exercise was able to reduce the extent of these behaviors. The researchers also found that exercise was more beneficial for female rats than males, similar to how it differentially affects male and female children with ADHD.
Moving forward, they investigated a mechanism through which exercise seems to improve learning and memory. This is "brain derived neurotrophic factor" (BDNF) and it is involved in growth of the developing brain. The degree of BDNF expression in exercising rats correlated positively with improved memory, and exercising as an adolescent had longer lasting effects compared to the same duration of exercise, but done as an adult.
"The implication is that exercising during development, as your brain is growing, is changing the brain in concert with normal developmental changes, resulting in your having more permanent wiring of the brain in support of things like learning and memory," says Bucci. "It seems important to [exercise] early in life."
Bucci's latest paper was a move to take the studies of exercise and memory in rats and apply them to humans. The subjects in this new study were Dartmouth undergraduates and individuals recruited from the Hanover community.
Bucci says that, "the really interesting finding was that, depending on the person's genotype for that trophic factor [BDNF],
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