This pioneering research was explicitly designed to measure how the brain responds to single bouts of aerobic activity in otherwise sedentary mice. In recent years, there's been a lot of human and animal research on the long-term neuroprotective benefits of daily exercise. However, until now, neuroscientists haven't explored how "acute" single episodes of physical activity trigger exercise-activated genes in the brain that may affect learning and memory .As the authors explain, "Our results provide the first evidence for activity-dependent expression of an I-BAR protein [Mtss1L] as well as a role in experience-dependent remodeling of synapses." To the best of my knowledge, this is the first study to pinpoint Mtss1L as a possible exercise-induced enhancer of synaptic function.
Model brave behavior. Want confident kids? They will be less likely to be easily flustered if they see you taking healthy risks. "A lot of adults won't go to a movie solo because they would be embarrassed to be seen sitting alone. So do it, then talk to your kids about it," says David Allyn, the author of I Can't Believe I Just Did That. Similarly, if your kids see you laugh when you realize that your shirt has been on backwards all morning, maybe they'll giggle, instead of feeling embarrassed, when it happens to them.
In the paper's discussion, the authors sum up the potential real-world significance of their findings:
"How might these results relate to the beneficial effects of exercise? One possibility consistent with our data is that exercise acts as a preconditioning signal that primes exercise-activated neurons for contextual information incoming during the several days following exercise. This represents a broader time window than is usually associated with short-term plasticity. For example, human studies give support for the idea that exercise within four hours of a learning task improved memory performance (van Dongen et al., 2016). It will be interesting to examine if exercise enhances the pattern of granule cell responses to spatial or context-specific tasks. Our identification of Mtss1L as an activity-dependent I-BAR domain protein makes it ideally suited to act as an early mediator of structural plasticity following neural activity."
For the next phase of this research, Westbrook and colleagues at OHSU plan to couple specific learning tasks with acute bouts of aerobic exercise in an attempt to better understand how triggering exercise-induced Mtss1L may prime the brain for learning.
In addition to the long-term brain benefits of sticking with a regular exercise regimen throughout the week and across a lifespan, the latest research suggests that scheduling a 30-minute cardio workout at moderate intensity immediately before taking a written test or writing something that requires semantic memory might improve your performance.