Exercise can help provide sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline. A new study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), reports that synaptic protein regulation is related to physical activity.

Their findings are published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association in an article titled, “Late-life physical activity relates to brain tissue synaptic integrity markers in older adults.”

“Physical activity (PA) is widely recommended for age-related brain health, yet its neurobiology is not well understood,” the researchers wrote. “Animal models indicate PA is synaptogenic. We examined the relationship between PA and synaptic integrity markers in older adults.”

“Our work is the first that uses human data to show that synaptic protein regulation is related to physical activity and may drive the beneficial cognitive outcomes we see,” said Kaitlin Casaletto, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology and lead author on the study.

The researchers found that the effects ranged beyond the hippocampus, to other brain regions associated with cognitive function.

“Brain tissue was analyzed for presynaptic proteins (synaptophysin, synaptotagmin-1, vesicle-associated membrane proteins, syntaxin, complexin-I, and complexin-II), and neuropathology,” noted the researchers. “Models examined relationships between late-life PA (averaged across visits), and timing-specific PA (time to autopsy) with synaptic proteins.”

Casaletto previously found that synaptic integrity, whether measured in the spinal fluid of living adults or the brain tissue of autopsied adults, appeared to dampen the relationship between amyloid and tau, and between tau and neurodegeneration.

“In older adults with higher levels of the proteins associated with synaptic integrity, this cascade of neurotoxicity that leads to Alzheimer’s disease appears to be attenuated,” Casaletto added. “Taken together, these two studies show the potential importance of maintaining synaptic health to support the brain against Alzheimer’s disease.”

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