The most intriguing topic came up in class this week: a baby will have more neurogenesis if the mother exercises while pregnant with the child (shoutout to Melissa). This got me thinking: if exercise can induce neurogenesis in an unborn baby, shouldn’t exercise also catalyze neurogenesis in the individual who is exercising? How much more motivated would you be to head to the gym after class – instead of your comfy, cozy bed – if you knew you were going to spark some neurogenesis?
Well, put your running shoes on, because it appears that exercise can produce neurogenesis – at least in active mice! The following link (http://neuro.cjb.net/cgi/reprint/25/38/8680) is an article that found that exercise increased hippocampal neurogenesis and learning in young mice, and that exercise reversed the effects of decreased neurogenesis in older mice by 50%. Additionally, spatial learning can be restored in older mice that voluntarily exercise.
What about people who exercise (aerobically) very regularly – are they producing far and away more neurons than a sedentary person, or is there a plateau at which neurogenesis catalyzed specifically by exercise begins to taper off or stop completely? Do we become ‘habituated’ to exercise, so that it takes longer or more strenuous workouts in order to produce the baseline neurogenesis? While I am interested in the answer to these questions, for now I’m going to grab my water and head to the Athletic Center. Welcome new neurons!