Reversing Aging: Exercise Rejuvenates Brain Cells

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Recent research shows that exercise can prevent or slow cognitive decline by affecting gene expression in the brain cells of mice. Exercise was found to revert aged microglia to a youthful state and is essential for new neuron formation in the hippocampus. Additionally, exercise reduced the presence of T cells in the aging brain. Credit:

Exercise can rejuvenate brain immune cells and reduce aging effects, highlighting the need for tailored exercise programs to support cognitive health.

New research published today (May 15) in the scientific journal Aging Cell provides insights into how exercise may help to prevent or slow cognitive decline during aging.

For the study, investigators assessed the expression of genes in individual cells in the brains of mice. 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. Specifically, the group found that exercise reverts the gene expression patterns of aged microglia to patterns seen in young microglia.

The Role of Microglia in Brain Health

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

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

Implications for Exercise and Aging

“We were both surprised and excited about the extent to which physical activity rejuvenates and transforms the composition of immune cells within the brain, in particular the way in which it was able to reverse the negative impacts of aging,” said co-corresponding author Jana Vukovic, PhD, of The University of Queensland, in Australia.

“It highlights the importance of normalizing and facilitating access to tailored exercise programs. Our findings should help different industries to design interventions for elderly individuals who are looking to maintain or improve both their physical and mental capabilities.”

Reference: “Exercise rejuvenates microglia and reverses T cell accumulation in the aged female mouse brain” by Solal Chauquet, Emily F. Willis, Laura Grice, Samuel B. R. Harley, Joseph E. Powell, Naomi R. Wray, Quan Nguyen, Marc J. Ruitenberg, Sonia Shah and Jana Vukovic, 15 May 2024, Aging Cell.
DOI: 10.1111/acel.14172

1 Comment on "Reversing Aging: Exercise Rejuvenates Brain Cells"

  1. This is a intuition fact I have held as my activity level has been at least 30 plus years and at 78 am very active with aerobics weekly (approx 300 minute’s a week) and daily walking for two years earning 10.4 million steps and 4600iles. We just need more verification of the effect.

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