Bethesda, Md. (Sept. 19, 2011)Researchers have long known that regular exercise increases the number of organelles called mitochondria in muscle cells. Since mitochondria are responsible for generating energy, this numerical boost is thought to underlie many of the positive physical effects of exercise, such as increased strength or endurance. Exercise also has a number of positive mental effects, such as relieving depression and improving memory. However, the mechanism behind these mental effects has been unclear. In a new study in mice, researchers at the University of South Carolina have discovered that regular exercise also increases mitochondrial numbers in brain cells, a potential cause for exercise's beneficial mental effects.
Their article is entitled "Exercise Training Increases Mitochondrial Biogenesis in the Brain." It appears in the Articles in PresS section of the American Journal of Physiology Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology, published by the American Physiological Society.
The researchers assigned mice to either an exercise group, which ran on an inclined treadmill six days a week for an hour, or to a sedentary group, which was exposed to the same sounds and handling as the exercise group but remained in their cages during the exercise period. After eight weeks, researchers examined brain and muscle tissue from some of the mice in each group to test for signs of increases in mitochondria. Additionally, some of the mice from each group performed a "run to fatigue" test to assess their endurance after the eight-week period.
Confirming previous studies, the results showed that mice in the exercise group had increased mitochondria in their muscle tissue compared to mice in the sedentary group. However, the researchers also found that the exercising mice also showed several positive markers of mitochondria increase in the brain, including a ris
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American Physiological Society