Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Exercise and the Brain: Our Sporting Mission

Everyone knows that physical exercise benefits the body. After all, that honed 6-pack doesn’t come from sitting on the couch munching crisps. However, fewer people are aware that regular physical exercise can have serious benefits for the brain!

There is a legion of scientific evidence to support the idea that strenuous activity leads to the release of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). The release of BDNF is known to promote healthy nerve cells, which are essential for mental performance, memory and recall. Physical exercise has also been shown to surpass mental exercise when combatting brain shrinkage (which occurs with memory problems and even in Alzheimer’s disease).

Considering all of these profound benefits for physical exercise on the brain the Sheffield NeuroGirls made it their mission to promote a healthier lifestyle in aid of neuroscience! We have vowed to take on new (and even dangerous) sporting activities at our own peril, and then relate our performance to changes which may be happening in our brain.

Our first mission is to tackle the world of rollerblading! Our first step was to fish-out some decent rollerblades on eBay and then take them out for a spin. The Sheffield NeuroGirls have currently been out for one (unstable) rollerblading session. We plan to track our progress with videos and photos – before mapping our improvements (hopefully) and relating these changes to the development of balance in the cerebellum; and skill acquisition in the motor cortex. Here’s hoping that all our practice means our frontal cortices can get a break when the skill eventually becomes automated.

So watch this space… Videos will be posted soon! (We just might have a particularly funny video of NeuroGirl Priya falling over in her rollerblades).

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