Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Game Brain

An excellent op-ed piece in today's New York Times about the value of exercise - of the physical variety - in mental gymnastics. A Risser suggestion to supplement the intent of the opinion writers: get out there and walk around, but take a camera with you - not only do you get the physical exercise, but you challenge yourself cognitively (and may well get some framable results!)

Exercise on the Brain
Published: November 8, 2007


How might exercise help the brain? In people, fitness training slows the age-related shrinkage of the frontal cortex, which is important for executive function. In rodents, exercise increases the number of capillaries in the brain, which should improve blood flow, and therefore the availability of energy, to neurons. Exercise may also help the brain by improving cardiovascular health, preventing heart attacks and strokes that can cause brain damage. Finally, exercise causes the release of growth factors, proteins that increase the number of connections between neurons, and the birth of neurons in the hippocampus, a brain region important for memory. Any of these effects might improve cognitive performance, though it’s not known which ones are most important.


[ ... Read the full piece ... ]


Henry W. Mahncke said...

Hi folks,

I read the NY Times article and this post with interest. I am a scientist at Posit Science - we're a startup company in San Francisco (founded by Dr. Michael Merzenich, a professor of neuroscience at UCSF). We're developing brain-plasticity-based cognitive training programs designed to enhance memory, so this article was particularly relevant. The second half of the article was quite interesting - there's a lot of compelling work going on about the relationship between physical exercise and cognitive fitness.

But the first half of the article overlooked a lot of literature. Some from my group :-) and quite a bit from other groups, most notably Karlene Ball and the ACTIVE study. I've never seen all the articles in one place before, so I put them up at our web page - anyone who's interested in the published work demonstrating that properly designed cognitive training programs can show generalized improvements to untrained functions can see

In addition, results from a very large study directly addressing this issue are being presented at the Gerontological Association of America in SF. People interested in this topic can see the study design at and results will be forthcoming.


Anthony Risser said...


I am most grateful that your posted these details. Thanks kindly.