The Power of Exercise
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is one of the most terrifying things that can happen to a person and their family. Troubles brought about by old age are trying enough, but the added deficits and severe neural injury caused by AD make a once highly functioning, caring, and involved family member a stranger to their loved ones. There is no cure, so caregivers, friends, and family merely stand by and do their best to help, even as recognition of a wife, husband, mother, father, sister, or brother quickly fades away. There have, however, been hopes that certain techniques and treatments may slow the progression of the disease. One new study proposes that exercise can actually increase thickness of the cortex in those diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that leads to AD.
The results from this study show that exercise, particularly that which improves cardiorespiratory health, can actually increase cortical thickness, especially around the areas that degenerate the fastest in AD. For both healthy elders and those affected with MCI, the MRI scans showed an 8.49% increase in cortical thickness. Not only does it protect against faster degeneration, but it could also help older adults without MCI protect their mental capacities.
What is interesting is that after participation in the exercise regimen, both the people with MCI and without MCI showed a smaller amount of cortex around the fusiform gyrus, the area largely attributed to our uncanny ability to discriminate faces and other objects we are “experts” in. This raises questions about how this area develops or degenerates in healthy as well as cognitively impaired elderly individuals as well as how this manifests.
~ Jackie Rocheleau