Tag Archives: Cognitive function

Jogging Your Memory: Aerobic Exercise and Its Positive Implications on Memory Retention

Do you own a pair of runners that haven’t been worn in a while and is now collecting dust on your shoe rack? Science suggests – you may want to put them to use again.

Emerging studies shown that aerobic exercise can slow down aging of the brain and have positive implications on cognitive abilities such as memory retention. Several studies shown that individuals who regularly exercise occupy larger volumes of the brain involved in memory compared to individuals that do not exercise.

What exactly is it about physical exercise that has such an impact you might ask?
Upon light to intense levels of aerobic exercise, the body produces a spectrum of signalling chemicals. One of the chemicals that gets released yields the production of a very important protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which gets released in the brain and muscles. When produced in the body, BDNF maintains existing brain cells, promotes the growth of new blood vessels in the brain and encourages growth of the hippocampus, a region of the brain that is associated with memory.

Figure 1. Anatomy of brain. Source: Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site

Why this should concern you.

The size of the hippocampus decreases with age which often leads to memory decline and decrease in mental efficiency. In many older adults, cognitive deficits are commonly associated with old age. Researchers estimate that by 2050, there will be more than 115 million people that will suffer dementia globally. However, evidence shows that memory decline and aging of the hippocampus can be reduced and ultimately lower chances of dementia by exercising regularly.

Is one form of exercise more beneficial than the other?

As of now, researchers have not yet found an answer. The reason being is that most of the studies conducted only experimented with walking and/or running. However, it is suggested from the studies available that any type of exercise that would be able to elevate the heart rate to a certain level would produce these cognitive benefits.

As someone who enjoys being physically active and mainly weight trains, I was astonished about the benefits of aerobic exercise – all of this was new information to me. Ever since I learned further about these benefits of aerobic exercise, I have incorporated running to achieve a healthier, more cognitively efficient brain.

Figure 2. Man running. Source: Kyle Cassidy

If you are physically able to exercise and do not currently do so, I hope this post encourages you to reach for your pair of runners, go out, and “jog your memory”.


It is never too late to start exercising.

– Aron Ha

The Upside of Stress

If you are a university student or a human being for that matter, you know how it feels to be under an overwhelming amount of stress. Chronic stress, as many may already know, can be detrimental to one’s mental and physical health. Long-term exposure to emotional pressure can lead to elevated blood pressure, heart disease and depression.

Source: Flickr Commons by Emma Brown

Although it would be great if we could be lounging around on a resort far far away from deadlines, exams, and responsibilities, researchers have found that stress at acute levels can actually be beneficial to one’s cognitive function and immune readiness.

Note that chronic stress is referred to as the response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period of time whereas acute stress is stress one suffers for only a short period of time.

Scientists at UC Berkley have put this to the test by using rats as test subjects to see if short-term stress really could lead to a boost in cognitive function. They found that after subjecting the test subjects to acute but short-lived stress, this caused a spike in the rat’s corticosterone levels which also led to the development of new cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory function. The researchers discovered that two weeks after exposure to acute stress, the test subjects performed better on a memory test compared to the test subjects that were not exposed.

Source: Flickr Commons

Source: Wikipedia

Not only is there a correlation between acute stress and memory function, but researchers at Harvard University found that the same hormones released during acute stress can aid to enhance immune readiness during ‘fight or flight’ situations which led the subjects to be more alert as well as be more attuned to possible environmental threats. Some examples of possible triggers for acute stress include preparing for a job interview or being involved in competitive sports, whereas examples of triggers for chronic stress include being in a bad relationship or being stuck in a job that you dislike for a long period of time.

Although acute levels of stress can be beneficial for some individuals, one’s personal experience is a big factor in determining whether a response to stress, even at low levels, can lead to positive or negative effects. For an example, if a person was to have a history of post-traumatic stress disorder, even stress at low levels can trigger a negative response.

The takeaway message is that although too much stress can lead to adverse consequences to one’s health, the right amount of acute stress can improve brain performance. Therefore it is definitely worth figuring out where your own optimal stress level lies.


If you are still experiencing stress after reading this post here is another way to make stress your friend.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU


Author: Jasmine Hyun