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The Link Between Running and Memory

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Being well is becoming more than a trend in the world, and many people want to bring wellness into their everyday routines. However, sometimes the best way to put wellness into a routine is to go back to the basics.

A study conducted by the Journal of Neurobiology of Learning and Memory showed the positive effects running can have on the brain. The study found that running diminishes the negative impacts that chronic stress can have on the brain, specifically within the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is the area of the brain where memory formation and recall occur. The process of synaptic strengthening can be weakened by chronic stress, ultimately impacting the memory. 

The Body Versus Brain Study

Jeff Edwards, associate professor of physiology and developmental biology at Brigham Young University (BYU), was the lead author of the study. Edwards carried out experiments using mice to conduct his research and draw his conclusions.

For his study, he had two groups of mice. One group used running wheels over the span of a four-week period; the second group remained sedentary during the same four-week period. Edwards then exposed half of each group to stress-induced situations, such as walking on an elevated platform or swimming in cold water.

One hour after the mice were exposed to the stress-induced situations, researchers measured the level of long-term potentiation (LTP) in the brain by performing electrophysiology experiments. To test the memory of all of the mice, Edwards conducted a maze-running experiment as well. 

The Body Versus Brain Results

After conducting these tests and trials, the researchers discovered that the mice who had been put in stress-induced situations and exercised had notably better LTP than the group of stressed mice that did not run. Edwards further found that the mice that exercised and were not exposed to stressful situations performed just as well as the stressed mice that ran, and both of these groups of mice made significantly fewer errors in the maze than the non-active mice. 

Edwards' findings revealed how exercise is an important method to protecting the brain from the negative effects of chronic stress. With running reducing the negative effect that chronic stress can have in the mind, the LTP levels can remain normal and functional. "Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress," Edwards concluded. 

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