Running Benefits for Brain Health
Study identifies lasting effects from consistent exercise.
Investigators now have new insight into how running benefits brain health, movement and cognition. New York University researchers examined the influence of running on brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and on dopamine levels. They discovered that when mice voluntarily exercised over 30 days, this led to increased BDNF that then triggered dopamine release in the brain area related to movement. Even after daily running stopped, the dopamine release continued for a week. Previous research has shown dopamine to play an important role in motivation, learning and memory.
“Our findings suggest that BDNF plays a key role in the long-lasting changes that occur in the brain as a result of running,” said lead study author Guendalina Bastioli, PhD, postdoctoral researcher in the department of neuroscience and physiology and NYU Langone Health. “Not only do these results explain why exercise makes you move, think, and feel better, they also show that these benefits continue even if you do not work out every day.”
While the study on brain benefits of running was conducted on mice, future studies will be conducted on humans, in particular to investigate the role of BDNF and dopamine in alleviating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The research is reported in The Journal of Neuroscience (2022; 42 , 4725–36).