A new study has shown that running produces better positive effects on brain health than cycling. The report, published in Nature, examined the impact of 10-minute treadmill sessions on the activity of the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is involved in a variety of complex behaviours, such as planning and personality. One specific subregion involved in inhibitory control and mood regulation was found to be highly activated.
The researchers believe that different types of exercise could be linked to different physical and neurological benefits.
Previous research has focused broadly on the impact of cycling, which utilises different muscle groups and produces different neurological effects.
The report notes: “Given exercise is medicine, the effects of drugs differ depending on the type of drug, different types of exercise such as running and pedalling should be observed to have different effects on mental health and brain activation as well.”
Cognitive performance was measured using a metric called the Stroop Colour-word test, while the participants were running.
It tests both the ability to process information and to filter it to find a specific piece of data.
The colour-word test shows people the names of different colours, with the text in alternate colours.
Participants may be asked to describe the colour of a word, which requires them to first read and then ignore the word itself which is a different colour.
The positive effects of exercise on neurological and mental health have been associated with reduced risk of cognitive disease in later life.
The exact mechanism by which this occurs is not comprehensively understood.
Certain forms of exercise, particularly sports such as boxing and football, have been linked to an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease in later life due to the risk of repeated impacts on the head.
The field of neuropsychobiology looks at how the brain works as an organ to produce different mental and social effects.
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