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Exercise May Slow Cognitive Decline in Brain Aging

Summary: A new study shows that exercise can reverse the effects of aging on the brain. Researchers have found that physical activity changes gene expression in microglia, making them resemble those in younger brains.

Exercise also helps reduce the harmful presence of T cells in the hippocampus, thereby improving memory and learning. These results highlight the importance of exercise in maintaining cognitive health during aging.


  1. Gene expression: Exercise returns gene expression of aged microglia to youthful patterns.
  2. Role of microglia: Essential for exercise-induced formation of new neurons in the hippocampus.
  3. Reduction of T cells: Exercise prevents/reduces the presence of T cells in the aging hippocampus.

Source: Wiley

New research published in Aging cell provides insight into how exercise can help prevent or slow cognitive decline during aging.

For the study, the researchers assessed gene expression in individual mouse brain cells. The team found that exercise has a significant impact on gene expression in microglia, the immune cells of the central nervous system that support brain function.

It shows an older man jogging.
These immune cells are not usually found in the brain during youth, but they increase with age. Credit: Neuroscience News

Specifically, the group found that exercise reverses the gene expression patterns of aged microglia to the patterns seen in young microglia.

Treatments that depleted microglia revealed that these cells are necessary for exercise’s stimulating effects on the formation of new neurons in the brain’s hippocampus, a region involved in memory, learning and emotion.

The scientists also found that providing mice with access to a running wheel prevented and/or reduced the presence of T cells in the hippocampus during aging. These immune cells are not usually found in the brain during youth, but they increase with age.

“We were both surprised and excited by the extent to which physical activity rejuvenates and transforms the composition of the brain’s immune cells, particularly how it is able to reverse the negative impacts of aging.” said co-corresponding author Jana. Vukovic, PhD, from the University of Queensland, Australia.

“This highlights the importance of standardizing and facilitating access to suitable exercise programs. Our findings should help different industries design interventions for older adults seeking to maintain or improve their physical and mental capabilities.

About this news on research on aging, exercise and cognition

Author: Sara Henning-Stout
Source: Wiley
Contact: Sara Henning-Stout–Wiley
Picture: Image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original research: Free access.
“Exercise rejuvenates microglia and reverses T cell accumulation in the brains of aged mice” by Jana Vukovic et al. Aging cell


Exercise rejuvenates microglia and reverses T cell accumulation in aged mouse brain

Slowing and/or reversing brain aging can alleviate cognitive impairments. Previous studies have shown that exercise can attenuate cognitive decline, but the underlying mechanisms remain largely unclear.

Here we provide unbiased analyzes of single-cell RNA sequencing data, showing the impacts of exercise and aging on specific cell types in the mouse hippocampus.

We demonstrate that exercise has a profound and selective effect on aged microglia, restoring their gene expression signature to that of young microglia.

Pharmacological depletion of microglia further demonstrated that these cells are necessary for the stimulatory effects of exercise on hippocampal neurogenesis, but not on cognition.

Surprisingly, allowing 18-month-old mice access to a running wheel also prevented and/or reversed the presence of T cells in the aging hippocampus.

Taken together, our data highlight the profound impact of exercise on the rejuvenation of aged microglia, associated pro-neurogenic effects, and on the presence of peripheral immune cells in the aging brain of female mice.

News Source : neurosciencenews.com
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