PITTSBURGH, April 26 Regular exercise speeds learning and improves blood flow to the brain, according to a new study led by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine that is the first to examine these relationships in a non-human primate model. The findings are available in the journal Neuroscience.
While there is ample evidence of the beneficial effects of exercise on cognition in other animal models, such as the rat, it has been unclear whether the same holds true for people, said senior author Judy L. Cameron, Ph.D., a psychiatry professor at Pitt School of Medicine and a senior scientist at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health and Science University. Testing the hypothesis in monkeys can provide information that is more comparable to human physiology.
"We found that monkeys who exercised regularly at an intensity that would improve fitness in middle-aged people learned to do tests of cognitive function faster and had greater blood volume in the brain's motor cortex than their sedentary counterparts," Dr. Cameron said. "This suggests people who exercise are getting similar benefits."
For the study, the researchers trained adult female cynomolgus monkeys to run on a human-sized treadmill at 80 percent of their individual maximal aerobic capacity for one hour each day, five days per week, for five months. Another group of monkeys remained sedentary, meaning they sat on the immobile treadmill, for a comparable time. Half of the runners went through a three-month sedentary period after the exercise period. In all groups, half of the monkeys were middle aged (10 to 12 years old) and the others were more mature (15 to 17 years old). Initially, the middle-aged monkeys were in better shape than their older counterparts, but with exercise, all the runners became more fit.
During the fifth week of exercise training, standardized cognitive testing was initiated and then performed
|Contact: Anita Srikameswaran|
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences