50+ health * Healthy living

Exercise may help boost memory

Stimulates new brain cells

Physical exercise may help prevent memory loss and learning ability which are lost with age, new research suggests.

As soon as we are born, the brain loses many nerve cells - neurons - and this continues throughout life. Until now it was thought that these brain cells were irreplaceable.

However, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology in Freiburg have identified different types of neuronal stem cells in the brains of mice capable of creating new neurons.

Whilst stem cells continuously divide and create new neurons in young animals, the scientists say a large proportion remain dormant or inactive in older animals in the hippocampus region of the brain, the part associated with learning ability and memory.

Now the scientists say that physical activity can stimulate the production of new neurons from the dormant stem cells.

Their results in mice could be relevant to humans. Scientists suspect that different types of active and inactive stem cells also arise in the human brain, leading to the possibility that dormant stem cells in humans can also be activated in a similar way to inactive stem cells in mice.

Dr Verdon Taylor, who led the study, said: "The use of neuronal brain stem cells in the treatment of brain injuries or degenerative diseases like Alzheimers may also be possible one day."

This article was published on Fri 7 May 2010



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