A hit of dopamine may be the mental driver of exercise

Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 (Heatherday News) — People often feel more alert and intelligent after a great workout, and dopamine may be the reason.

A recent small study conducted by British and Japanese researchers found that men released higher levels of brain “feel-good” neurotransmitters during exercise.

In turn, this appears to be linked to better performance on thinking tests, the researchers said.

“These latest findings support our previous theory that cognitive performance during exercise is affected by changes in brain regulatory hormones, including dopamine,” said study co-author Dr. Joe Costello.

It is in the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences at the University of Portsmouth in England.

The findings were published in a recent issue of The Journal of Physiology.

In the study, Costello and his team of colleagues had 52 men take part in three different experiments.

During the experiments, their brain activity was monitored with sophisticated PET imaging.

In one test, men were asked to perform a mentally challenging task while riding a bicycle while lying down.

In the second experiment men completed the same task, but this time they received “electrical muscle stimulation” instead of training.

In the third experiment they had to complete mental tasks while exercising and receiving electrical muscle stimulation.

Based on PET scan data, Costello’s group observed an increase in dopamine release in the brain while the men were actively exercising, known as “voluntary” exercise.

That increase in dopamine was related to improvements in performing mental tasks.

When the muscles were simply stimulated electrically, known as “involuntary” exercise, no such effect was seen.

“We wanted to eliminate voluntary muscle movement during the study to see whether the process by which acute exercise improves cognitive performance was present during simulated exercise,” the study’s lead author explained in a University of Portsmouth news release. Is.” Soichi Endo.

“Our results suggest that exercise should be based on central signals from the brain, not just from the muscles,” Endo said. He is an Associate Professor in the Health and Sports Sciences Laboratory at the University of Telecommunications in Japan.

“This suggests that when we receive our central command to move our body during exercise, this is the process that helps release dopamine in the brain,” Endo said.

Costello emphasized that dopamine release probably isn’t the only factor that makes exercise so good for staying alert.

“Many other psychological factors, such as cerebral blood flow, arousal and motivation, may also play a role,” he said.

The bottom line, according to Costello, is: “These findings support the growing evidence that exercise prescription is a viable therapy for a range of health conditions across the lifespan.”

more information

Learn more about the benefits of exercise for the brain from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Source: University of Portsmouth, press release, 15 January 2024

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