Scientists from the Center for Brain Health Research at The University of Texas have found aerobic exercise has been found to improve memory
For the study 36 sedentary adults ages 56-75 years were randomly put into either a cognitive training or a physical training group. They then followed a training programme for 12 weeks while the scientists monitored the results of their brain activity.
They found that aerobic exercise group showed increases in immediate and delayed memory performance that were not seen in the cognitive training group. The randomised trial is the first to compare cerebral blood flow and cerebrovascular reactivity data obtained via MRI.
“Many adults without dementia experience slow, continuous and significant age-related changes in the brain, specifically in the areas of memory and executive function, such as planning and problem-solving,” said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, study lead author, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, and Dee Wyly Distinguished University Professor. “We can lose 1-2 percent in global brain blood flow every decade, starting in our 20s. To see almost an 8 percent increase in brain blood flow in the cognitive training group may be seen as regaining decades of brain health since blood flow is linked to neural health.”
Those who participated in cognitive training demonstrated positive changes in executive brain function as well as a 7.9 percent increase in global brain flow compared to study counterparts who participated in an aerobic exercise program.
Each group took part in training three hours per week over 12 weeks. Neurocognitive, physiological, and MRI data were taken before, during and after training. The cognitive group received Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART), a manualised brain training developed at the Center for BrainHealth. The physical training group completed three, 60-minute sessions per week that included five minutes of warmup and cool down with 50 minutes of either walking on a treadmill or cycling on a stationary bike while maintaining 50-75 percent of maximum heart rate.
“Most people tell me that they want a better memory and notice memory changes as they get older,” said Dr. Mark D’Esposito, study co-author and professor of neuroscience and psychology, and director of the Henry H. Wheeler Jr. Brain Imaging Center at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.
“While memory is important, executive functions such as decision-making and the ability to synthesise information are equally, if not more so, but we often take them for granted. The takeaway: aerobic activity and reasoning training are both valuable tools that give your brain a boost in different ways.”