How’s this for a high-concept article title? Not mine. This one, hot off the press from the Proceedings of The National Institute of Sciences: “Running enhances spatial pattern separation in mice.” A research team headed by David J. Creer in Baltimore & Timothy J. Bussey @ Cambridge University studied adult mice [3 months old] and “very aged” mice [22 months old]; and determined that adults with nifty, blue plastic, saucer-shaped exercise wheels in their cages [which they ran on, for up to 12 miles a day] enjoyed “synaptic plasticity and hippocampal neuro-genesis,” and could do a touch-screen task [to “find Waldo,” as it were] much better than their “sedentary” comrades.
Sadly, exercise for the aged mice did not significantly improve their task performance, mainly because they couldn’t quite grasp what the cockamamie task was, in the foist place! Still, a little run on the wheel, what could it hoit? [Why I’m giving the alta cocka mice Brooklyn accents is anybody’s guess, since they were actually living in “Bal’m’re”–don’t feign incomprehension, those of you who have watched every episode of The Wire–hanging out at the National Institute on Aging.]
So, let’s extrapolate the findings [the way the BBC news release did] to humans. It may be that, not only is vigorous exercise good for “tying down cognitive Kangaroos” [so that they can sit still and focus long enough to learn stuff]; it may actually encourage the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus [thereby benefiting both Kangaroos & Clydesdales].
Gives a whole new meaning to the term Scholar/Athlete, no?
Now, here’s what I propose for a follow-up study. Let’s re-test those 3-month-old smarty-pants rodent/athletes when they are 22-month-oldsters; and see if they retain their brainey-ness. How very cool it would be, if they did.
I wonder what the human equivalent of 12 mice-miles a day is…