In previous studies, it has been proven that exercises, physical and mental, can reshape the brain by allowing the formation of new brain cells. If you search the word “Neuroplasticity” on the internet, you’ll know what we are talking about. However, it now appears as if these exercises, or a lack thereof, can remodel the brain in ways too.
Until just recently, it was thought that the brain’s structure was fixed by the time one reaches adulthood, specifically around puberty. You wouldn’t be able to generate new cells in your lifetime, so a bump on the head was something people generally tried to avoid. However, since then, technology has taken us leaps ahead in science in ways that allow neurological breakthroughs every few months. One of these breakthroughs is that the brain maintains the ability to be remodeled throughout our life.
In parallel with these findings, a study has been recently published regarding the inactivity of the brain. The researchers found out that being sedentary changes the shape of the brain, and in turn affects the heart as well. The experiment mainly involved rats, but the researchers highly believe that these might have some implications for people as well.
In the study from Wayne State University, researchers observed two groups of rats. One group had wheels installed in the cages of the rats, while the other group did not. It was noted that in the cages with wheels, the rats were able to cover up to 3 miles a day. The other rats were mainly sedentary.
After a duration of three months, these rats were injected with colored dyes that allowed the firing of neurons to be seen in the brain. The scientists observed the sympathetic nervous system in general, which controlled a number of unconscious activities we need to survive – breathing, for example.
It turned out that when the scientists finally observed the insides of the rats’ brains, the rats that ran everyday had a better functioning sympathetic nervous system. In contrast, those who were sedentary had higher blood pressure, contributing to a higher risk of heart disease. In addition, those sedentary rats also had slower firing neurons, implying that the sedentary lifestyle was really taking a toll on their brain.
The results are self explanatory, and although these are rats and not people, this study proves the sheer effects of inactivity in the brain to not only itself, but also to the heart. Whether or not this news will make you want to challenge your brain and body more or not totally in your control, but I’m already jogging whilst writing this article – maybe now, you should too.