"The production of neural stem cells in the hippocampus decreases dramatically by middle age, and moderate running exercise can slow this trend," Kuo said. "Chronic moderate running enhances the production of neurotrophic factor, which promotes neurogenesis, and the differentiation and survival of newborn neurons."
Paul Sanberg, director of the University of South Florida Center for Aging and Brain Repair, concurs that exercise could promote the growth of new brain stem cells in people.
"This provides more understanding of its potential in humans," Sanberg said. "That there is a significant effect in middle-aged animals suggests that in middle-aged people that this would also occur."
There needs to be more data in humans to see if the growth of new brain cells has an effect on cognitive ability, Sanberg noted. "But it's encouraging the continued use of exercise to maintain health and proper health of our brain," he said.
For more information on the aging brain, visit the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
SOURCES: Yu-Min Kuo, Ph.D., associate professor, department of cell biology and anatomy, National Cheng Kung University Medical College, Tainan, Taiwan; Paul Sanberg, Ph.D., D.Sc., professor, neurosurgery, and director, University of South Florida Center for Aging and Brain Repair, Tampa; November 2008 Journal of Applied Physiology
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