I just read a great paper on the benefits of exercise and brain function.

“Physical activity, fitness, and gray matter volume” by; Kirk I. Erickson*, Regina L. Leckie, Andrea M. Weinstein examined whether certain types of exercise can actually reduce brain breakdown. This paper was published in May, 2014.

The most recent count is that the human brain contains 86 billion neurons (brain cells) and 20-25% of our energy goes to these cells. The number of connections (synapses) that these neurons make with other neurons is 0.15 quadrillion! Take a back seat computers. As time marches on humans tend to have memory loss and brain atrophy (shrinkage) which is attributed to volume loss. But this loss occurs more uniformly in 4 regions:

-pre-frontal cortex -front part of the brain responsible for planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior.

Caudate nucleus (deep brain structure) The caudate nucleus plays a vital role in how the brain learns, specifically the storing and processing of memories. It works as a feedback processor, which means it uses information from past experiences to influence future actions and decisions as well as motor movement. This is important to the development and use of language. Specifically, communication skills are thought to be controlled mostly by the left caudate and the thalamus.

Medial temporal lobe- contains the hippocampus which takes short term memory and stores into long term memory. Declarative (denotative) or explicit memory is conscious memory divided into semantic memory (facts) and episodic memory (events).

It is easy to see from these functions that loss of volume (size) equates to a decrease in brain cells (neurons) thus the symptoms affected by this.

This paper analyzed various studies. The age bracket was 50-80years of age. Most studies were non-demented individuals whereas some studies included them. The exercise tested was cardiovascular and physical activity. The measuring stick was how much the brain took in oxygen to its maximum known as VO2max . The more oxygen the greater the VO2max thus more of a cardiovascular exercise vs. physical activity. This was viewed utilizing MRI-scans.

The outcome showed that overall physical activity defined as aerobic or anaerobic including bicycling, walking, gardening, dancing, swimming, and other activities or hobbies concluded that there is a consistent association between higher fitness levels and physical activity with greater volume of the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus in older adults. The time frame for positive change was 6-12 months of exercise. Some studies showed that the caudate was also improved

There are still unanswered questions but one concept is certain, and that is the more oxygen the brain receives the better its function due to decrease volume loss of certain anatomical areas. This paper reviewed physical activity at various levels aerobically and an-aerobically for accomplishing this.

Exercise has so many benefits that it is vital that some form of physical activity at various levels should be implemented. One may need to get a personal trainer to get acclimated to the various pieces of equipment utilized and help with general guidance. The benefits are immeasurable.

Dr. Paul Stefanelli

Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist

Fellow of the American College of Functional Neurology



Chiropractic Neurology Center

685 Bloomfield Ave Suite 104

Verona NJ 973-239-0070