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  • She Says

Study Suggests, Shaking A Leg Or Two Can Save You From Memory Loss

  • IWB Post
  •  April 20, 2017

 

According to a study published by Colorado State University’s human development and family studies department, shaking a leg or two is beneficial for our brain’s memory.

Talking about dance classes, in particular, they have a positive effect on a brain region called fornix.

You may wonder how?

Dance lessons teach you exercises, help you involve in social interactions and learning. These factors help the brain to grow and are good for memory.

The fornix connects the hippocampus to other areas of the brain and seems to play a major role in memory: Changes in the fornix have been linked to progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease, as the study suggests.

To find out how the impact of different forms of exercise on the brain, Aga Burzynska and team researched on 174 healthy adults ages 60 to 79 over four years. They met three times a week for the first six months in a gym at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The rest of the study involved follow-up screenings.

All the 174 participants were divided into four categories. One group did aerobic walking, the second did the same aerobic walking and took a daily nutritional supplement, the third group attended stretching, and balance classes (as an active control group) and the fourth group took the dance classes.

The fourth group learned choreographed and social group dances that challenged participants’ cognitive and motor-learning abilities. To see the difference in memory functioning and behavioral pattern, each participant underwent MRI screenings at the beginning and end of six months that measured white matter microstructure.

White matter is akin to the brain’s wiring that deteriorates with age causing disruptions in the transmission of electrical messages in the brain. Since these electrical signals are the ones which help our brain cells communicate, this deterioration is harmful.

Burzynska’s team found that integrity of the fornix increased in the dance group. And the test subjects who took dance classes during that time saw improved white matter integrity in an area of the brain related to memory and processing speed ― while the subjects who did other forms of exercise in the study did not.

The study thus revealed two important results.  Firstly, the decline in the brain’s white matter can actually be detected over a period of only six months in healthy aging adults. And second, while the white matter declines were noted on the MRI, they were not apparent in cognitive performance, which was measured through standardized tests that included vocabulary and visual comparisons. Almost everyone performed better after six months of exercising in any form than they did at the study’s start.

These results indicate that there could be a time lag between when the brain changes structurally and when we start having trouble thinking and remembering, Burzynska said.

The study also revealed that engaging in “any activities involving moving and socializing,” can improve mental abilities in aging brains.

“The message is that we should try not to be sedentary,” she said. “The people who came into our study already exercising showed the least decline” in white matter health, she pointed out, and those who took up dancing showed white matter gains.

After this study, researchers say one new case of dementia is detected every four seconds globally. Going at this pace, there will be more than 115 million people suffering from dementia worldwide by 2050.

Source: The finding was published March 16 in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

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