A new study confirms that exercise can reverse the age-related decline in the production of neural stem cells in the hippocampus of the mouse brain. This may happen because exercise restores a brain chemical which promotes the production and maturation of new stem cells.
Neural stem cells and progenitor cells differentiate into a variety of mature nerve cells which have different functions. There is evidence that when fewer new stem or progenitor cells are produced in the hippocampus, it can result in impairment of the learning and memory functions.
The researchers built on earlier studies that found that the production of stem cells in the area of the hippocampus known as the dentate gyrus drops off dramatically by the time mice are middle age, and that exercise can slow that trend.
They found that exercise significantly slows down the loss of new nerve cells in the middle-aged mice. In fact, they discovered that production of neural stem cells improved by approximately 200 percent in active mice. In addition, the survival of new nerve cells increased by 170 percent and growth by 190 percent, compared to sedentary middle-aged mice. Exercise also significantly enhanced stem cell production and maturation in the young mice.
Science Daily November 27, 2008