A recently completed Australian study using MRI technology at the University of Queensland found that there were specific amounts of physical exercise in elderly mice that would improve learning and memory, thus reversing cognitive decline. The fact that the study showed promising results in the mice now opens the way forward for further research on the matter in humans and for reasons to be optimistic.
The decade-long study, led by Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) Emeritus Professor Perry Bartlett and Dr. Dan Blackmore, found that there was an optimal period of physical exercise—35 days—that led to better spatial learning skills in the mice. The researchers were able to observe this by way of the fact that growth hormone levels were at their highest during that time, with the growth hormone setting off the production of new neurons in the part of the brain that is responsible for learning and memory.
The study also lends further credence to the claim that there is a direct relationship between diminished cognitive ability in elderly people and weaker production of new neurons.
With dementia currently serving as the second most common cause of death for Australians, any studies such as these are of crucial importance. Anything that can be done to stunt cognitive decline could have resounding impact on the life expectancy of the senior segment of the population.