Exercise on the Brain By Mrs Vera West

     In this series I have been presenting material on the health benefits of exercise, beyond the obvious cardio-vascular/heart benefits. Here is some more information about how exercise can help our brains, and I don’t know about you, but my brain needs all the help it can get:

“ An international study presented further evidence that irisin protects neurons in the brain from degeneration. It showed that the so-called “exercise-induced hormone” can improve memory in humans and mice.
First identified in 2012 by researchers from the Harvard Medical School, irisin is a messenger hormone that helps convert white fat into brown fat, which produces heat. It was named after Iris, the heavenly messenger of the gods in Greek mythology. Irisin levels increase whenever the body performs intense physical activities. Its discoverers believe that the hormone plays a significant role in the numerous health benefits enjoyed by the body during sessions of aerobic exercise. “Exercise can improve cognitive function and has been linked to the increased expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF),” explained Harvard researcher Christiane Wrann. (Related: Physical exercise reduces severity of Alzheimer’s symptoms.) Aerobic exercise induces the formation of neuroprotective irisin in the brains of mice. The new study took a three-pronged approach to investigate the role of irisin. In the first phase, the researchers acquired samples of cerebral tissue from human brain banks for analysis. Post-mortem tissue evaluations showed that irisin molecules travel to the hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for storing memories. Furthermore, the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease have much lower concentrations of irisin in the hippocampus, which is a prime target of the neurodegenerative disease.


“Defective brain hormonal signaling has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a disorder characterized by synapse and memory failure. Irisin is an exercise-induced myokine released on cleavage of the membrane-bound precursor protein fibronectin type III domain-containing protein 5 (FNDC5), also expressed in the hippocampus. Here we show that FNDC5/irisin levels are reduced in AD hippocampi and cerebrospinal fluid, and in experimental AD models. Knockdown of brain FNDC5/irisin impairs long-term potentiation and novel object recognition memory in mice. Conversely, boosting brain levels of FNDC5/irisin rescues synaptic plasticity and memory in AD mouse models. Peripheral overexpression of FNDC5/irisin rescues memory impairment, whereas blockade of either peripheral or brain FNDC5/irisin attenuates the neuroprotective actions of physical exercise on synaptic plasticity and memory in AD mice. By showing that FNDC5/irisin is an important mediator of the beneficial effects of exercise in AD models, our findings place FNDC5/irisin as a novel agent capable of opposing synapse failure and memory impairment in AD.”

     Exercise may thus be protective against neurological decline, combined with a healthy diet. I am strongly against alcohol consumption, as my mother told me when I was a little girl that it “rots the brain, just look at your father.” And, she was right, sadly.



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Saturday, 13 August 2022