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Exercise May Enhance Adult Brain's 'Plasticity'

First Posted: Dec 07, 2015 03:19 PM EST
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Physical activity helps in "training" the brain and not just the body, according to a recent study.

Italian researchers measured the visual cortex neuroplasticity of 20 adults with amblyopia--a condition that causes poor vision in an eye that did not properly develop during early childhood, according to the National Eye Institute. They tested participants by having them watch a movie with one eye patched and then again with one eye patched while they rode a stationary bicycle for 10-minute intervals during the movie. They found that neuroplasticity in the participants enhanced with exercise.

"We are the first to show that physical exercise can promote plasticity in a sensory cortex, in our case the visual cortex," said study co-author Claudia Lunghi of the University of Pisa in Italy, via Discovery News. According to researchers, previous studies suggested that the visual cortex "only worked with visual information, but [it appears that] physical activity can enhance it."

While both of the eyes typically work together when viewing an image, when one is covered for a certain period, it works harder to make up for the loss. Researchers hope to further investigate the effects of exercise on neuroplasticity in patients with amblyopia.

"Moderate levels of physical activity enhance neuroplasticity in the visual cortex of adult humans," said the study's co-author Claudia Lunghi, a researcher from the National Research Council's Neuroscience Institute at the University of Pisa, in a news release. "Our study suggests that physical activity, which is also beneficial for the general health of the patient, could be used to increase the efficiency of the treatment in adult patients. So, if you have a lazy eye, don't be lazy yourself!"

The study is published in the journal Current Biology.

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