Does Exercise Really Make Me Smarter?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

“Hey, baby – nice entorhinal cortex.”

Who hasn’t been the target of this cranial catcall after a run or ride?

No one. Ever.

But perhaps it’s time for some Neanderthal who still catcalls to work it into their repertoire. At the very least it’s an appreciation for someone’s mind. The entorhinal cortex is a teeny yet important area in the medial temporal lobe of the brain that serves memory, learning, and spatial cognition. It’s part of the brain network – including the hippocampus – that weakens in cases of age-related dementia and Alzheimer’s.

And…there’s mounting evidence that aerobic exercise makes your entorhinal cortex bigger, stronger, faster. Or in neurological terms, there’s a damn strong correlation between aerobic exercise and increased brain function.

In a study released earlier this month, researchers from Boston University Medical Center threw a bunch of relatively healthy, 18-35 year olds on a treadmill to measure aerobic capacity. Then, with an MRI and other fancy science-y things (voxel-based morphometry, if you must know), the researchers measured brain volume and conducted a memory test.

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