That sport is essential for maintaining good physical health is nothing new. It is known to help prevent cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, and even some types of cancer. Also, it is key to keeping the brain healthy, fit, and avoiding the cognitive decline associated with aging. And the benefits of sweating the shirt do not stop there. A new study, whose findings are published in the journal Current Biology, concludes that moderate exercise can be an effective tool for treating vision problems such as the vagal reflex as eye disease in adults or even injuries caused by brain trauma.
The key is brain plasticity, a unique quality that allows us to adapt to changes, learn and remember. It is greatest during the early stages of life, when the brain is developing and is modeled continuously by experiences, but with age it decreases.
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Research & Investigations
During the last decade, there have been numerous investigations that have shown how regular cardiovascular sport generates new nerve cells in regions such as the hippocampus (an area related to learning and memory). Which causes the generation of new blood capillaries that had better irrigate the brain. Which causes the synapses to be more modifiable, configurable. However, it was believed that in some areas, such as sensory areas, there was nothing to do.
“Just a decade ago the predominant idea was that the visual cortex [the brain’s area of visual information] in adults could not be modified, it was not flexible. But we have shown that moderate levels of physical exercise are sufficient to increase neuroplasticity in that area in an adult. And that is very important because it opens the door to developing new therapeutic strategies that take advantage of that plasticity in adults, “explains Big Vang Claudia Lunghi, a neuroscientist at the University of Pisa in Italy.
Together with Alessandro Sale, a researcher at the Institute of Neurosciences of the National Research Council of Italy, this expert wanted to analyze if he could influence sports in the brain of people with amblyopia, with the aim of helping them recover vision. Better known as a vagus eye, amblyopia involves loss of ability to see clearly through an eye and in the case of adults lacks treatment.
Stimulate the brain
In previous experiments with laboratory animals, Sale had already shown that when rodents with a vacant eye ran on a wheel inside their cages showed higher levels of plasticity in the visual cortex than sedentary rats and that they were able to recover vision. “We wanted to check if those results were extrapolated to humans, if physical exercise could also promote visual plasticity in adults,” says this neuroscientist to Big Vang.
Thus, they carried out an experiment in which they subjected 20 adult volunteers to two tests: in the first, they covered one eye, invited them to relax on a sofa and watch a movie. Moreover, in the second, they put a patch back in the eye, but this time, while watching the film, they were pedaling them on a static bike in 10-minute intervals, at a moderate pace that made them raise their beats to 120 per minute.
With this test, neuroscientists wanted to measure what is called ‘binocular rivalry’. In general, both eyes work together, however when you cover one for a while, that one becomes stronger because the brain tries to compensate that it does not receive visual information from it. The resulting imbalance between both eyes is used in neuroscience to measure visual plasticity.
In the experiment, these Italian scientists observed that exercise clearly enhanced the brain’s plastic capacity. “Our results are very clear: exercising while having the capped eye favored the plasticity of the visual cortex of the volunteers. And we were surprised two things: that physical exercise could have an effect so fast, in just two hours. Although it was a moderate physical activity, it had a beneficial effect, “notes Lunghi, adding that” this type of exercise, moderate, that everyone can do, in addition to keeping you physically healthy, is a simple way to Have the agile, flexible brain, in adulthood, to rejuvenate it. “
The reason underlying this positive influence is a decrease in levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA. As the concentration of this molecule decreases, the brain becomes more receptive. “This neurotransmitter acts as a tremendous brake to limit plasticity in the brain. By being able to reduce their amount through exercise, a window to cerebral plasticity is reopened, which we can use to help the lazy eye regain its ability, “says Sale.
Sport For A Healthy Brain
The important thing about this study is that it is adding to the growing research that proving that playing sports on a regular basis plays a key role in mental health as well as recovery when a problem arises. “Physical activity on best treadmills is beneficial to overall health and our results suggest that it could be used to increase the effectiveness in treatments with adult patients as a strategy to increase neuroplasticity and take advantage of that window to recover an injury or even prevent the pathological aging of the brain “Says Lunghi.
David Costa, a researcher at the Institute de Neurosciences of Barcelona, has been studying for years the effects of sport on cognition. Regarding the work of Lunghi and Sale comments that “demonstrate that the visual cortex, which in adults was believed to be unalterable, can be modified.” This scientist from the Department of Psychobiology and Methodology of Health Sciences investigates whether physical exercise can achieve that a person who has suffered a brain injury, such as a trauma or a stroke, recover before or the consequences of the injury are Less severe.
“It is not that with the sport we are going to solve the problem, but that we can help that the treatment works better. The exercise itself does not cure anything, “explains Costa.
And the same thing happens in the case of cognition. It is known that those who practice cardiovascular activity on a regular basis have a more plastic brain. For example, several studies have found that children who play sports and study, of course, often get better grades than those who are more sedentary. “It’s like having a field that would be the brain that you pay a lot with the sport. If you do not put any seeds, nothing is going to grow. However, if you marinate and put the seed, i.e. study or in the case of an injury, you apply a treatment, then that plant will come out much better, faster. That is what exercise does, “exemplifies this researcher.