Exercise Can Boost Your ‘Visual’ Brainpower, And Here’s How

Scientists have long known that going hard in the gym benefits the brain as much as it does brawn, from improving long-term memory to enhancing the amount of your brain’s gray matter.

Now, a new small study that was published in the journal Current Biology on Monday suggests that a good workout — even if it’s just moderate exercise — can boost the visual cortex’s ability to change for the better.

The visual cortex, where the brain receives and processes visual information from the eyes, was previously thought to be a structure that lacked plasticity (or the ability to change) and couldn’t be “rewired” in adulthood, Dr. Claudia Lunghi, a neuroscientist at the University of Pisa in Italy and lead author of the study, told The Huffington Post.

“For this reason, the fact that a non-invasive manipulation such as physical activity can boost plasticity in the visual cortex is particularly surprising and particularly important,” she said.

Lunghi and her co-author, Dr. Alessandro Sale, a research scientist at the National Research Council’s Neuroscience Institute in Italy, measured the plasticity of 20 adults’ visual cortexes by asking them to watch a movie while relaxing in a chair with one eye covered by a patch. When one eye is covered, the closed eye becomes stronger as the visual cortex attempts to compensate for the lack of visual input by boosting its strength — this change in the closed eye’s strength allows scientists to measure and test the brain’s visual plasticity.

Those same participants were also asked to watch a movie while wearing the eyepatch and exercising on a stationary bike for 10-minute intervals.

The researchers found the differences in strength between the patched and unpatched eyes were much more pronounced after exercise, which suggests that working out —> Read More