How to Kick-Start the Brain

Most of us discover as we age that our thinking skills dip. Familiar names, words, and even the location of keys, begin to elude us. Yes, our brains change with age. Often we despair that anything can be done to reverse the process.

A fascinating study published this summer demonstrated that weight training may have benefits for brain health, at least in rats. When rats lift weights, they gain strength, but also change the cellular environment within their brains. They improve their ability to think.

In the study rats were injected with a substance known to induce inflammation in the brain, creating a rodent form of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or early dementia. Half of these rats then began a program of weight training. They climbed ladders but had bags of pellets attached to their legs, just as humans add to the weight they lift in gyms.

The result was that the weight-trained animals restored their ability to think, whereas untrained rats with MCI lagged far behind. It seems as if weight-bearing exercise for these animals kick-started the creation and survival of new neutrons in their brains.

The chief researcher finds the outcome suggestive for aging humans. "I think it's safe to say," he said, "that people should look into doing some resistance training. It's good for you for all kinds of other reasons, and it appears to be neuro-protective. And who doesn't want a healthy brain?"

Source: New York Times, July 30, 2019 Norm Thomas