What do exercise, blood and neurogenesis have in common?

We’ve known for a long time that exercise not only improves physical fitness, but also sharpens our mind. This is why we study the effects of exercise to reverse, or at least delay, brain aging. This is how we know that regular exercise helps to improve cognitive abilities in adults and elderly people, even decreasing dementia.

In this line, a very interesting article was recently published in the journal “Science” where the effect of exercise on mature and elderly mice was studied. The research not only confirmed the benefits of exercise at a cognitive level, it also showed that it was possible to transfer – through blood transfusions – these benefits to sedentary mice. In fact, both “sporty” and sedentary mice, which received “sport” blood transfusions, showed an increase in the number of new neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in learning and memory. By studying the blood components, several proteins were found to be increased in the exercising mice, including Gpld1 (glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-specific phospholipase D1), a protein produced by the liver and released into the circulatory system. When scientists artificially induced an overproduction (over expression) of Gpld1 in elderly mice, they observed an improvement in neurogenesis and cognitive tests, similar to that produced by exercise.

All these findings are promising because they could start the way towards a drug that would confer the benefits of exercise – at the brain level – to people unable to practice it and thus, reverse or delay brain aging. For everyone else, workout! the benefits are multiple. As the Antique people said: ‘Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano’ (healthy mind in healthy body).


doi: 10.1126/science.aaw2622