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This is your brain on exercise: Vigorous exercise boosts critical neurotransmitters, may help restore mental health -- ScienceDaily

The researchers measured GABA and glutamate levels in two different parts of the brain immediately before and after three vigorous exercise sessions lasting between eight and 20 minutes, and made similar measurements for a control group that did not exercise. Glutamate or GABA levels increased in the participants who exercised, but not among the non-exercisers. Significant increases were found in the visual cortex, which processes visual information, and the anterior cingulate cortex, which helps regulate heart rate, some cognitive functions and emotion. While these gains trailed off over time, there was some evidence of longer-lasting effects. "There was a correlation between the resting levels of glutamate in the brain and how much people exercised during the preceding week," Maddock said. "It's preliminary information, but it's very encouraging." These findings point to the possibility that exercise could be used as an alternative therapy for depression. This could be especially important for patients under age 25, who sometimes have more side effects from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anti-depressant medications that adjust neurotransmitter levels.

Electroshock before exercise?!

Depression, even the most severe cases, can be treated. The earlier that treatment can begin, the more effective it is. Depression is usually treated with medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. If these treatments do not reduce symptoms, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and other brain stimulation therapies may be options to explore.

Executive-related oculomotor control is improved following a 10-min single-bout of aerobic exercise: Evidence from the antisaccade task - ScienceDirect

hus, a 10-min bout of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic exercise benefits executive-related oculomotor control, and is a finding we attribute to an exercise-based increase in attention/arousal and/or improved task-specific activity within the frontoparietal networks supporting antisaccades.

New neurons in the adult brain are involved in sensory learning -- ScienceDaily

The scientists from the Institut Pasteur and the CNRS observed that the new neurons were able to react differently to an odor depending on the consequences associated with that sensory experience, such as whether or not there would be a reward. They also demonstrated that olfactory learning, in which the mice had to associate an odor with positive reinforcement, became easier once the new neurons had been activated. Finally, simply activating these adult-born neurons could be assimilated with a reward-predicting odor. In short, this research shows that adult-born neurons are involved in the value associated with sensory stimuli rather than just the identification of the nature of a given sensory stimulus. It demonstrates that reward-motivated learning depends largely on adult neurogenesis.

Cognitive dysfunction in major depression and bipolar disorder: Assessment and treatment options - MacQueen - 2016 - Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences - Wiley Online Library

Exercise may have positive effects on cognition in healthy people and is being investigated as a possible strategy for maintaining cognitive function throughout aging. It also improves symptoms of depression.[76-79] The degree to which it actually improves cognitive function in those with a mood disorder is not well known.[80] High-dose exercise was associated with improvement in spatial working memory while other cognitive domains, including attention, visual memory, and spatial planning, improved regardless of dose in one study.[81] Another study included a subset of patients with BD (3/12, while the other participants had schizophrenia) and found that intense circuit training was associated with improvement in memory and processing speed; depressive symptoms also improved.[82] There are therefore a variety of factors that require investigation to understand how to maximize the benefits of exercise on cognition in patients with mood disorders. These include better understanding of the individual variability in response to training, optimal dosing or training schedules, the synergistic effects of exercise in combination with other interventions[83] and the actual mechanisms through which exercise works on the neural circuits that are disrupted in depression.

Running helps brain stave off effects of chronic stress: Exercise protects vital memory and learning functions -- ScienceDaily

"Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress," said study lead author Jeff Edwards, associate professor of physiology and developmental biology at BYU. Inside the hippocampus, memory formation and recall occur optimally when the synapses or connections between neurons are strengthened over time. That process of synaptic strengthening is called long-term potentiation (LTP). Chronic or prolonged stress weakens the synapses, which decreases LTP and ultimately impacts memory. Edwards' study found that when exercise co-occurs with stress, LTP levels are not decreased, but remain normal.

Start small

If the science is compelling and if an incremental approach is good enough for the top athletes in the world, then why do so many people still fall prey to a suboptimal cycle of big, in-over-your-head workouts followed by extended time off due to injury and fatigue? Dixon believes there are two primary reasons: a lack of self-confidence, and a lack of understanding the training process.

How exercise training promotes a sound mind in a sound body -- ScienceDaily

In the earlier study, the researchers were able to show that trained muscles help to clean the blood in a way similar to the kidneys and liver. Through exercise training, the muscles can convert the stress marker kynurenine into kynurenic acid. High levels of kynurenine have been measured in people with depression and mental illness. For this present study, the researchers further examined the function of kynurenic acid. Using mice fed on a fat-rich diet that made them overweight and raised their blood sugar levels, they found that a daily dose of kynurenic acid stopped the mice putting on weight and gave them better glucose tolerance, despite no change in their food intake. The researchers posit the explanation that kynurenic acid activated the cell receptor GPR35, which is found in both fat cells and immune cells. This led in the former to a conversion of white fat into energy-burning brown fat, and in the latter to an enhancement of their anti-inflammatory properties

Short-term exercise equals big-time brain boost: Even a one-time, brief burst of exercise can improve focus, problem-solving -- ScienceDaily

During the study, research participants either sat and read a magazine or did 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise on a stationary bicycle. Following the reading and exercise session, the researchers used eye-tracking equipment to examine participants' reaction times to a cognitively demanding eye movement task. The task was designed to challenge areas of the brain responsible for executive function such as decision-making and inhibition. "Those who had exercised showed immediate improvement. Their responses were more accurate and their reaction times were up to 50 milliseconds shorter than their pre-exercise values. That may seem minuscule but it represented a 14-per-cent gain in cognitive performance in some instances," said Heath, who is also an associate member of Western's Brain and Mind institute. He is conducting a study now to determine how long the benefits may last following exercise.

How exercise is key to successfully quitting smoking -- ScienceDaily

Researchers also showed there was an increased activation of a type of receptor in the brain called α7 nicotinic acetylcholine, which is a target of nicotine. The findings support the protective effect of exercise preceding smoking cessation against the development of physical dependence, which may aid smoking cessation by reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Dr Alexis Bailey, Senior Lecturer in Neuropharmacology, at St George's, University of London, said: "The evidence suggests that exercise decreases nicotine withdrawal symptoms in humans; however, the mechanisms mediating this effect are unclear. "Our research has shed light on how the protective effect of exercise against nicotine dependence actually works." In the study, nicotine-treated mice that were undertaking two or 24 hours a day of wheel running exercise displayed a significant reduction of withdrawal symptom severity compared with the sedentary group.

Exercise changes gut microbial composition independent of diet, team reports -- ScienceDaily

In the mouse study, changes in the microbiota of recipient mice mirrored those in the donor mice, with clear differences between those receiving microbes from exercised and sedentary mice. "That proved to us that the transplant worked," Woods said. Recipients of the exercised mouse microbiota also had a higher proportion of microbes that produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that promotes healthy intestinal cells, reduces inflammation and generates energy for the host. They also appeared to be more resistant to experimental ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease. "We found that the animals that received the exercised microbiota had an attenuated response to a colitis-inducing chemical," Allen said. "There was a reduction in inflammation and an increase in the regenerative molecules that promote a faster recovery." In the human study, the team recruited 18 lean and 14 obese sedentary adults, sampled their gut microbiomes, and started them on an exercise program during which they performed supervised cardiovascular exercise for 30-60 minutes three times a week for six weeks. The researchers sampled participants' gut microbiomes again at the end of the exercise program and after another six weeks of sedentary behavior. Participants maintained their usual diets throughout the course of the study. Fecal concentrations of SCFAs, in particular butyrate, went up in the human gut as a result of exercise. These levels declined again after the participants reverted to a sedentary lifestyle. Genetic tests of the microbiota confirmed that this corresponded to changes in the proportion of microbes that produce butyrate and other SCFAs. The most dramatic increases were seen in lean participants, who had significantly lower levels of SCFA-producing microbes in their guts to begin with. Obese participants saw only modest increases in the proportion of SCFA-producing microbes. The ratios of different microbes in the gut also differed between lean and obese participants at every stage of the study, the researchers said. "The bottom line is that there are clear differences in how the microbiome of somebody who is obese versus somebody who is lean responds to exercise," Woods said. "We have more work to do to determine why that is."

The Effects of Physical Exercise and Cognitive Training on Memory and Neurotrophic Factors | Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience | MIT Press Journals

This study examined the combined effect of physical exercise and cognitive training on memory and neurotrophic factors in healthy, young adults. Ninety-five participants completed 6 weeks of exercise training, combined exercise and cognitive training, or no training (control). Both the exercise and combined training groups improved performance on a high-interference memory task, whereas the control group did not. In contrast, neither training group improved on general recognition performance, suggesting that exercise training selectively increases high-interference memory that may be linked to hippocampal function. Individuals who experienced greater fitness improvements from the exercise training (i.e., high responders to exercise) also had greater increases in the serum neurotrophic factors brain-derived neurotrophic factor and insulin-like growth factor-1. These high responders to exercise also had better high-interference memory performance as a result of the combined exercise and cognitive training compared with exercise alone, suggesting that potential synergistic effects might depend on the availability of neurotrophic factors.

Use it or lose it

“I usually put this in more obscene language,” van Loon says, “but you can mess up a lot more in one week than you can improve in six months of training.”

Group exercise improves quality of life, reduces stress far more than individual work outs -- ScienceDaily

At the end of the twelve weeks, their mean monthly survey scores showed significant improvements in all three quality of life measures: mental (12.6 percent), physical (24.8 percent) and emotional (26 percent). They also reported a 26.2 percent reduction in perceived stress levels.

Exercise and the Prevention of Depression: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study: American Journal of Psychiatry: Vol 0, No 0

The majority of this protective effect occurred at low levels of exercise and was observed regardless of intensity. After adjustment for confounders, the population attributable fraction suggests that, assuming the relationship is causal, 12% of future cases of depression could have been prevented if all participants had engaged in at least 1 hour of physical activity each week. The social and physical health benefits of exercise explained a small proportion of the protective effect. Previously proposed biological mechanisms, such as alterations in parasympathetic vagal tone, did not appear to have a role in explaining the protection against depression.

How Exercise Might Increase Your Self-Control - The New York Times

Most of the women gained a notable degree of self-control, based on their questionnaires, after completing the walking and jogging program. (In this experiment, they were told they were training for better fitness.) But the increases were proportional; the more sessions a woman attended or the more her average jogging pace increased, the greater the improvement in her delay-discounting score. These gains lingered a month after the training had ended, although most of the women had tapered off their exercise routines by then.

The Benefits of Exercising Before Breakfast - The New York Times

At the end, the nonexercising group was, to no one’s surprise, super-sized, having packed on an average of more than six pounds. They had also developed insulin resistance — their muscles were no longer responding well to insulin and weren’t pulling sugar (or, more technically, glucose) out of the bloodstream efficiently — and they had begun storing extra fat within and between their muscle cells. Both insulin resistance and fat-marbled muscles are metabolically unhealthy conditions that can be precursors of diabetes. The men who ate breakfast before exercising gained weight, too, although only about half as much as the control group. Like those sedentary big eaters, however, they had become more insulin-resistant and were storing a greater amount of fat in their muscles. Only the group that exercised before breakfast gained almost no weight and showed no signs of insulin resistance. They also burned the fat they were taking in more efficiently. “Our current data,” the study’s authors wrote, “indicate that exercise training in the fasted state is more effective than exercise in the carbohydrate-fed state to stimulate glucose tolerance despite a hypercaloric high-fat diet.”

The Best Thing to Eat Before a Workout? Maybe Nothing at All - The New York Times

Most obviously, the men displayed lower blood sugar levels at the start of their workouts when they had skipped breakfast than when they had eaten. As a result, they burned more fat during walks on an empty stomach than when they had eaten first. On the other hand, they burned slightly more calories, on average, during the workout after breakfast than after fasting. But it was the impacts deep within the fat cells that may have been the most consequential, the researchers found. Multiple genes behaved differently, depending on whether someone had eaten or not before walking. Many of these genes produce proteins that can improve blood sugar regulation and insulin levels throughout the body and so are associated with improved metabolic health. These genes were much more active when the men had fasted before exercise than when they had breakfasted.

Run on empty

Gene expression in the adipose tissue differed significantly in the two trials. The expression of two genes, PDK4 and HSL, increased when the men fasted and exercised and decreased when they ate before exercising. The rise in PDK4 likely indicates that stored fat was used to fuel metabolism during exercise instead of carbohydrates from the recent meal. HSL typically increases when adipose tissue uses stored energy to support increased activity, such as during exercise, explained Dylan Thompson, corresponding author of the study. These results reinforce the view that "adipose tissue often faces competing challenges," Thompson wrote. After eating, adipose tissue "is busy responding to the meal and a bout of exercise at this time will not stimulate the same [beneficial] changes in adipose tissue. This means that exercise in a fasted state might provoke more favorable changes in adipose tissue, and this could be beneficial for health in the long term," he noted.

Exercise boosts tryptophan, a mild hypnotic and serotonin precursor

The largest body of work in humans looking at the effect of exercise on tryptophan availability to the brain is concerned with the hypothesis that fatigue during exercise is associated with elevated brain tryptophan and serotonin synthesis. A large body of evidence supports the idea that exercise, including exercise to fatigue, is associated with an increase in plasma tryptophan and a decrease in the plasma level of the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine (see64,65 for reviews). The BCAAs inhibit tryptophan transport into the brain.66 Because of the increase in plasma tryptophan and decrease in BCAA, there is a substantial increase in tryptophan availability to the brain. Tryptophan is an effective mild hypnotic,67 a fact that stimulated the hypothesis that it may be involved in fatigue. A full discussion of this topic is not within the scope of this editorial; however, it is notable that several clinical trials of BCAA investigated whether it was possible to counter fatigue by lowering brain tryptophan, with results that provided little support for the hypothesis. Further, exercise results in an increase in the plasma ratio of tryptophan to the BCAAs before the onset of fatigue.64,65

Overview of exercise and serotonin

A third strategy that may raise brain serotonin is exercise. A comprehensive review of the relation between exercise and mood concluded that antidepressant and anxiolytic effects have been clearly demonstrated.53 In the United Kingdom the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which works on behalf of the National Health Service and makes recommendations on treatments according to the best available evidence, has published a guide on the treatment of depression.54 The guide recommends treating mild clinical depression with various strategies, including exercise rather than antidepressants, because the risk–benefit ratio is poor for antidepressant use in patients with mild depression. Exercise improves mood in subclinical populations as well as in patients. The most consistent effect is seen when regular exercisers undertake aerobic exercise at a level with which they are familiar.53 However, some skepticism remains about the antidepressant effect of exercise, and the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States is currently funding a clinical trial of the antidepressant effect of exercise that is designed to overcome sources of potential bias and threats to internal and external validity that have limited previous research.55

Meta analysis: exercise promotion is ineffective for social anxiety disorder (see powerpoint slide)

All psychological interventions apart from promotion of exercise and other psychological therapies (supportive therapy, mindfulness, and interpersonal psychotherapy) had greater effects on outcomes than did waitlist (table; figure 3). In decreasing order of effect size, these were individual cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT; class effect SMD −1·19, 95% CrI −1·56 to −0·81), group CBT (−0·92, −1·33 to −0·51), exposure and social skills (−0·86, −1·42 to −0·29), self-help with support (−0·86, −1·36 to −0·36), self-help without support (−0·75, −1·25 to −0·26), and psychodynamic psychotherapy (−0·62, −0·93 to −0·31).

Psychological and pharmacological interventions for social anxiety disorder in adults: a systematic review and network meta-analysis - The Lancet Psychiatry

Individual CBT compared with psychological placebo (SMD −0·56, 95% CrI −1·00 to −0·11), and SSRIs and SNRIs compared with pill placebo (−0·44, −0·67 to −0·22) were the only classes of interventions that had greater effects on outcomes than appropriate placebo. Individual CBT also had a greater effect than psychodynamic psychotherapy (SMD −0·56, 95% CrI −1·03 to −0·11) and interpersonal psychotherapy, mindfulness, and supportive therapy (−0·82, −1·41 to −0·24). Interpretation Individual CBT (which other studies have shown to have a lower risk of side-effects than pharmacotherapy) is associated with large effect sizes. Thus, it should be regarded as the best intervention for the initial treatment of social anxiety disorder. For individuals who decline psychological intervention, SSRIs show the most consistent evidence of benefit.

Sauna Bathing and Mortality | Lifestyle Behaviors | JAMA Internal Medicine | The JAMA Network

This study provides prospective evidence that sauna bathing is a protective factor against the risk of SCD, fatal CHD, fatal CVD, and all-cause mortality events in the general male population. Our results suggest that sauna bathing is a recommendable health habit, although further studies are needed to confirm our results in different population settings.

Weight-bearing exercises promote bone formation in men: Human hormone, protein linked to bone mass are impacted by 12 months of targeted exercise -- ScienceDaily

"People may be physically active, and many times people know they need to exercise to prevent obesity, heart disease or diabetes," Hinton said. "However, you also really need to do specific exercises to protect your bone health." In the study, men 25- to 60-years-old who had low-bone mass were split into two groups. One group performed resistance training exercises such as lunges and squats using free weights. The other group performed various types of jumps, such as single-leg and double-leg jumps. After 12 months of performing the exercises, Hinton then compared the levels of bone proteins and hormones in the blood. "We saw a decrease in the level of sclerostin in both of these exercise interventions in men," Hinton said. "When sclerostin is expressed at high levels, it has a negative impact on bone formation. In both resistance and jump training, the level of sclerostin in the bone goes down, which triggers bone formation." The other significant change Hinton observed was an increase in the hormone IGF-1. Unlike sclerostin, IGF-1 triggers bone growth. The decrease of harmful sclerostin levels and the increase in beneficial IGF-1 levels confirmed Hinton's prior research that found both resistance training and jump training have beneficial effects on bone growth. To increase bone mass and prevent osteoporosis, Hinton recommends exercising specifically to target bone health. While exercises such as swimming and cycling are beneficial to overall health, these activities do not strengthen the skeleton. Hinton suggests also doing exercise targeted for bone health, such as resistance training and jump training. The study, "Serum sclerostin decreases following 12 months of resistance- or jump-training in men with low bone mass," was published in Bone.

Insulin resistance may lead to faster cognitive decline: Executive function, memory are particularly vulnerable to the effects of insulin resistance, researchers say -- ScienceDaily

nsulin resistance is a condition in which cells fail to respond normally to the hormone insulin. The resistance prevents muscle, fat, and liver cells from easily absorbing glucose. As a result, the body requires higher levels of insulin to usher glucose into its cells. Without sufficient insulin, excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream, leading to prediabetes, diabetes, and other serious health disorders. The scientists followed a group of nearly 500 patients with existing cardiovascular disease for more than two decades. They first assessed the patients' baseline insulin resistance using the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA), calculated using fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin levels. Cognitive functions were assessed with a computerized battery of tests that examined memory, executive function, visual spatial processing, and attention. The follow-up assessments were conducted 15 years after the start of the study, then again five years after that. The study found that individuals who placed in the top quarter of the HOMA index were at an increased risk for poor cognitive performance and accelerated cognitive decline compared to those in the remaining three-quarters of the HOMA index. Adjusting for established cardiovascular risk factors and potentially confounding factors did not diminish these associations.