We know that sports and physical activities are important for brain development and academic performance. Now we know why exercise makes you smarter…
Scientists Discover Why Exercise Makes You Smarter – Psychology Today
“scientists have now honed in on a specific molecule called irisin that is produced in the brain during endurance exercise through a chain reaction. Irisin is believed to have neuroprotective effects. Researchers were also able to artificially increase the levels of irisin in the blood which activated genes involved in learning and memory.”
What is irisin and what does it do?
Irisin is a hormone which is released after moderate endurance aerobic activity. It offers the following health benefits:
- it maintains healthy body weight
- it stimulates the growth of neurons and improves cognition
- it may slow the aging process
If you’re interested to find out about how irisin helps with your body weight or aging, you can read about that here:
- Hormone released after exercise can ‘predict’ biological age – Science Daily
- To Burn Fat, You Could Exercise … or Shiver – National Geographic News
We were more interested in how it improved cognition…
Moderate endurance exercise raises the levels of the hormone irisin. Irisin crosses the blood brain barrier and leads to an increase in the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). It also activated genes that are involved in cognition. The increase of BDNF promotes neurogenesis. It also reduces cortisol which is responsible for the degeneration of neurons and shrinking of the hippocampus (the part of our brain that controls our memories). BDNF also supports and strengthens synapses in the brain. Exercise also activates the hippocampus to grow more neurons.
Everything in Moderation
This is important! If you overdo it, the benefits of BDNF maxes out and backfires on you. In the study, they found that the mice who ran too much ended up becoming “dumber”. So the key is “moderation”!
* image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net