MRI scans show that running may affect the structure and function of the brain in ways similar to complex tasks like playing a musical instrument. A study at the University of Arizona declares that MRI scans reveal that the brains of young adult cross country runners have greater functional connectivity than the brains of those who are more sedentary. This better connectivity involves several areas of the brain, including the frontal cortex, important in planning, decision-making and switching attention between tasks.
The current findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, help lay the groundwork for researchers to better understand how exercise affects the brain, particularly in young adults.
UA running expert David Raichlen, an associate professor of anthropology, says,
One of the things that drove this collaboration was that there has been a recent proliferation of studies, over the last 15 years, that have shown that physical activity and exercise can have a beneficial impact on the brain, but most of that work has been in older adults. This question of what's occurring in the brain at younger ages hasn't really been explored in much depth, and it's important. Not only are we interested in what's going on in the brains of young adults, but we know that there are things that you do across your lifespan that can impact what happens as you age, so it's important to understand what's happening in the brain at these younger ages. These activities that people consider repetitive actually involve many complex cognitive functions.
The complex task of playing a musical instrument has also been described by neuroscientists as having similar connectivity benefits for the brain.
See Science News, 14 Dec 2016/
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