Workouts rebuild the brain, increasing resistance to stress

Researchers at Princeton University found that due to physical activity, you can rebuild the brain. Such a restructuring can weaken the response to stress and reduce the intervention of anxious states on the functioning of the brain.

According to the Journal of Neuroscience, experiments with mice showed that stressful exposure to cold water on regularly trained animals caused a significant increase in the activity of neurons, the role of which is to neutralize the excitation that occurs in areas of the brain that are responsible for anxiety.

The research results may put an end to the disputes of scientists with bipolar views on the effects of training on the brain. Some of them believe that physical activity leads to the emergence of new, young neurons that have greater excitability, which leads to an increase in anxiety states of the brain. Studies by Princeton scientists have shown that as a result of training, mechanisms are used that reduce the level of excitation of brain cells.

According to the professor of psychology at Princeton University, Elizabeth Gould, who led the study, similar experiments aimed at deeply studying the mechanisms of the influence of physical activity on the behavior of brain cells have not been conducted previously. Scientists have been able to identify areas of the brain that regulate anxiety states. The experimental results will contribute to a better understanding and treatment of emerging anxiety disorders.

Elizabeth Gould argues that the human brain has adaptive capabilities that allow changing current processes depending on the environment and lifestyle. For physically weaker individuals, the resulting anxious behavior can create certain benefits. The reaction to anxiety often manifests itself in the form of an avoidance reaction, which avoids getting into dangerous situations, thereby increasing the likelihood of survival. This is especially true for individuals who are unable to adequately respond to the danger and act according to the principle of "fight or run."

Gould believes that the value of the research is mainly due to the fact that understanding the processes of regulation of the brain in the event of anxiety behavior can effectively cure various anxiety disorders. In addition, the research results reveal the effect of the mechanisms of brain self-regulation and its adaptation to the environment.

The experiment in question is part of the dissertation by Timothy Schonfeld, an employee of the National Institute of Psychiatry, co-authored by medical doctor Brian Hsu, who was a student at Stanford University during the experiment. Studies formed the basis of his thesis. The study also involved Pedro Pieruzini and Pedro Rada, representing the Venezuelan University of Los Andes.

Two groups of mice were involved in the experiment. One group was limited in physical activity, and the other had access to the squirrel wheel. These animals ran in the wheel up to four kilometers in one evening. After six weeks, the mice were exposed to cold water.

As a result of this effect, diametrically opposite results were obtained. In animals that were limited in movement, treatment with cold water caused an increase in the number of short-lived genes in neurons that instantly start when neurons are excited. In the neurons of physically active mice, a shortage of short-lived genes is observed, as a result of which the cells of their brain did not switch to the excitation mode when the stress factor occurred. In contrast, the brains of “athlete” mice showed signs of some control over the response to stress. Significantly activated inhibitory neurons, the role of which is to restrain the excited neurons. Among other things, neurons of physically active animals produced a greater amount of GABA-gamma-aminobutyric acid, a substance that reduces the level of nervous excitation of brain cells. Also, a significant amount of protein was noted in this group of mice, which, by dividing GABA into small doses and packing it into vesicles, tansport throughout the body.

Researchers in order to suppress neural activity in the ventral hippocampus blocked GABA receptors, which led to the disabling effect of the weakening anxiety state. The blockade was carried out using bicuculin, which is used in medicine to block GABA receptors in the body and stimulate cell activity in epilepsy. The use of bicuculin in the experiment under consideration neutralized the effects of gamma - aminobutyric acid in the brain cells of physically active animals.