First and foremost, let’s be real about this. Fitness junkies are not in it for the extra knowledge boost. People usually get into fitness and exercise mainly with the goal to be physically fitter and healthier. It’s been known that physical activities, particularly exercises, release powerful hormones like endorphins that can help boost one’s mood. However, researchers have recently discovered an exercise-induced particle that can enhance cognition.
Scientists and related researchers have always known that exercise has positive impacts on our brains. And through continuous research, a new scientific breakthrough was discovered. Scientists have now identified irisin, a molecule that is generated in the brain through endurance exercises. This molecule is assumed to have positive and helpful neuroprotective effects activated through a chain reaction. On top of their discovery, scientists were also able to successfully boost the levels of irisin in the blood artificially. That experiment was able to show us that it can activate dormant genes involved in learning and retention.
Through a series of experiments carried out on mice, researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute as well as Harvard Medical School discovered that the molecule called FNDC5, which produces irisin as a byproduct, increases in the brain during endurance exercises.
The team that is headed by Dr. Bruce Spiegelman also determined that increasing levels of irisin in the circulation made the molecule traverse the blood-brain barrier, which increased the effect of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and stimulated genes involved in cognition as a result. As a reference, the group of mice that were genetically modified to have lower levels of irisin had lower levels of the said neurotrophic factor.
As mentioned above, science has long discovered that anyone who follows a regular and aerobic exercise routine boosts moods and cognitive functions enough to incite neurogenesis or the growth of new brain neurons. As cited from a motivational fitness book by Christopher Bergland, doctors have linked chronic stress, anxiety, as well as depression to the atrophy or neuron loss and confirmed that exercise on the other hand is linked to neuron growth. The infamous cortisol is said to be the main hormone triggered throughout the neuron degeneration process, which also seems to shrivel the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center.
Neuroscientists from the Oregon Health and Science University have also found that brain-derived neurotrophic factor helps in supporting and strengthening the brain’s synaptic system. They’ve also linked exercise with the activation of and growth of neurons in the hippocampus. In fact, they have discovered that BDNF concentrations in physically active mice could increase for more than 170% after practicing one week of wheel running. The set of mice who ran more also had more BDNF.
So what can we all take away from this discovery? Simple. Exercise can jumpstart a chain reaction that drastically improves our brain health.
But on a bigger scale, this research can prove useful in terms of producing medications that can use exercise-induced molecules to fight against neurodegenerative disorders. Such medical breakthroughs could change cognition levels of the rapidly aging population. It can also make the difference on anyone who has underlying conditions that inhibits them from doing intense or regular endurance exercises.
The researchers focused on this are now planning to conduct even more research to produce a form of irisin protein that could significantly improve the natural anti-degeneration process of the brain so they could help people who can’t exercise regularly.
As of now, if you are capable of doing some exercises, you may try to fit in some in your daily routine to enjoy the effects of a pill-free version of irisin and strengthen your brain health.
Enjoy this video that goes into more depth on the subject of exercise and overall brain health: