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Why exercise boosts brain health

Washington, Oct 11 : Early researches have shown that exercise is good for the brain, but now investigators have identified a molecule called irisin that is produced in the brain during endurance exercise and has neuroprotective effects.


Researchers were able to artificially increase the levels of irisin in the blood to activate genes involved in learning and memory.

While it's known that exercise can boost cognitive function and lessen symptoms of neurological diseases like depression, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease, the mechanisms underlying these effects are unclear. One important player is thought to be a growth factor named brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

Through experiments conducted in mice, investigators led by Dr. Bruce Spiegelman of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School found that a molecule called FNDC5 and its cleavage product, irisin, are elevated by endurance exercise in the brain and increase BDNF expression.

On the other hand, mice genetically altered to have low irisin levels in the brain had reduced levels of BDNF.

The team also found that raising levels of irisin in the circulation caused the molecule to cross the blood brain barrier, where it increased expression of BDNF and activated genes involved in cognition.

The study is published in the Cell Press journal Cell Metabolism.

--ANI (Posted on 11-10-2013)

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