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Exercise improves brain function in Parkinson’s patients

In Parkinson’s disease, dopamine-producing cells in the brain die. As a result, patients have various complaints, ranging from slow movement to trembling in the arm or leg. A 2018 study showed that patients who exercised vigorously on a stationary bike three times a week had symptoms stabilized compared to a control group that only stretched. MRI scans were also performed for both groups of participants, the results of which are now published in Annals of Neurology.

Stronger connections between brain regions

Many people with Parkinson’s disease have difficulty with automatic movements, such as walking. This is because the part of the brain that controls these routine movements is affected. In the scans, the researchers noted that in physically active patients, connections were strengthened between areas of the brain that had been relatively spared from Parkinson’s disease. “These areas of the brain, as it were, were given a stronger role in the brain network. We see this as a compensation strategy for the brain: It compensates for the fact that automatic movements, such as walking, become more difficult,” said Rick Helmich, a neurologist and principal investigator.

The amount of gray matter in the brain stabilizes

The researchers also looked at the brain’s gray matter, where the cell bodies of neurons are located. This clearly showed that the amount of gray matter was stabilized in patients who had been active on the exercise bike for six months. This substance decreased in the stretching group. Helmich: “These findings are in line with previous studies, which show that people who actively train for something develop more connections between brain cells. So, with sports, not only do your muscles increase, but your brain increases as well.”

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Be able to think better

Finally, patients who had been physically active became better at thinking, too. Martin Johansson, a doctoral student and lead author of the publication, explains how they were able to determine this: “We asked participants to perform different cognitive tasks, in which eye movements allowed us to measure how well patients were able to control spontaneous movements. It turns out that the physically active group does this better. From the control group: They improved their performance six months earlier, before training on the exercise bike.Next, on MRI scans, we saw that how good they were at this was directly related to their fitness, as measured by lung capacity.This showed: better The ability to think increased.

Exercise is good for the brain

Researchers believe that intense exercise improves brain function by stimulating reparative capacity, not because Parkinson’s disease progresses more slowly. Rick Helmich: “We know exercise is good for the brain. For everyone, but certainly also for people with Parkinson’s disease. These findings have important implications: Exercise causes changes in the brain that can reduce Parkinson’s symptoms. I hope people with Parkinson’s disease take this as a motivation.” Massive to exercise more. In this time of lockdown, it also underscores the importance of sport and exercise.”

By: National Care Guide