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March 08, 2022 2 min read

Dementia afflicts approximately 55 million people around the globe, altering the lives of both patients and their families. In the face of growing rates of the disease, academics stress that prevention is key. Now, a new study may have determined the exercise "sweet spot" to help reverse cognitive decline.

Dementia is characterized by the gradual death of synaptic connections in the brain, which cause an onslaught of cognitive deficits including memory loss and confusion. The growing economic burden of the disease has raised worldwide concerns and prompted new research into potential cures and preventive measures. It's already been established that exercise has a strong impact on the brain, so scientists are seeking to determine how much we need to reap the long-term benefits.

One new study has determined the “exercise sweet spot” to help reverse cognitive decline.

The new study, conducted by researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland Australia, has suggested that 35 days of exercise may be enough to bring significant improvements to cognitive performance.

For their study, the team looked at a sample of mice aged from 10 weeks to 24 months, assessing their spatial navigation and memory using the active place avoidance task (APA).

In APA rodents are placed on a rotating platform, where they are expected to use spatial cues to navigate their way around.

As expected, older rodents aged 18 and 24 months performed significantly worse than their younger counterparts over the course of the five-day test.

However, researchers later noted significant improvements in the learning abilities of mice after they exercised for 35 days.

They said: “We tested the cognitive ability of elderly mice following defined periods of exercise and found an optimal period of 'sweet spot' that greatly improved their spatial learning.”

Using MRI scans, researchers were later able to attribute these improvements to better connectivity in the dentate gyrus, the part of the hippocampal region of the brain.

Doctor Blackmore, lead author of the study, added: “Using MRI, we were able to study the brain following exercise, and for the first time identify the critical changes in the structure and functional circuitry of the hippocampus required for improved spatial learning.”

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