STUDY: Exercise under stress helps protect memory

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A new BYU study by lead author Jeff Edwards, associate professor of physiology and developmental biology, has discovered that exercise under stress helps protect memory. (Photo: BYU)

(KUTV) - A new Brigham Young University study has discovered that exercise under stress helps protect memory.

The study, published in the journal of Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, found that running, in particular, lessens the adverse effects of chronic stress on the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Chronic or prolonged stress weakens the process of synaptic strengthening called long-term potentiation (LTP), which ultimately impacts memory, a press release said.

The study's lead author, BYU Associate Professor of Physiology and Developmental Biology Jeff Edwards, performed experiments with mice using running wheels over a four-week period while another set of mice was left sedentary.

The experiment involved half of each group being exposed to stress-inducing situations, such as walking on an elevated platform or swimming in cold water, the news release stated.

One hour after the stress-inducing situations, researchers conducted electrophysiology experiments on the rodent's brains to measure LTP. The data found that when exercise co-occurs with stress, LTP levels are not decreased, but remain normal, the news release said.

“The ideal situation for improving learning and memory would be to experience no stress and to exercise,” Edwards stated in the release. “Of course, we can’t always control stress in our lives, but we can control how much we exercise. It’s empowering to know that we can combat the negative impacts of stress on our brains just by getting out and running.”

To see the published study online, click here.