Let's Get Sweaty Baby

She Blinded Me With Science made it to No. 8 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1982. It was written and recorded by Thomas Dolby, whose real name was Thomas Robertson. Robertson had become so skilled with recording equipment and the like that his friends nicknamed him Dolby, for the rather more famous noise reduction and sound reproduction company Dolby Laboratories.

This post is pretty “sciency”, hence that introduction. Three brain factoids to set the stage:

  • One part of the brain is the hippocampus, which we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts. It is part of the limbic system and plays an essential part in the formation of new memories and is involved in learning.
  • Neuroplasticity is a term that means that the brain can change-or be “plastic”. One of the most important things we’ve learned in recent times is that the brain is “plastic” in adulthood. That is, it can grow, remain healthy, make new nerve connections and so on. Not that long ago, the prevailing theory was that we were born with a certain number of brain cells and the long slow decline began. The hippocampus is one of the brain parts that is neuroplastic.
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein that helps nerve cells do, well, a lot. Grow in particular, as well as get stronger and avoid premature cellular death.

 Research reported in the last few days confirms that the brain benefits from aerobic exercise. Led by University of Western Sydney research fellow Joseph Firth, and Brendon Stubbs, physiotherapist and clinician at the UK’s National Health Service, the research team found that aerobic exercise, including walking and stationary bike riding, improved our friend the hippocampus. Generally, their observation was the benefit was in the form of prevention of shrinking of the hippocampus, not actual growth. And the likely source of the benefit was increased, or, as the research called it “upregulated” BDNF. From my layman’s perspective, BDNF looks like a tonic for our brains; we want more BDNF and big healthy brains and exercise is the way to get it. Here is a link to the original report from Stubbs’ and Firth’s research.

Again, we have confirmation of our “move it or lose it” mantra for brain health. Get sweaty out there.

By the way, British-born Thomas “Dolby” Robertson had several albums after the album The Golden Age of Wireless, which contained Science. None had single as catchy. He now resides in the U.S. and is a professor of the arts at Johns Hopkins.

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