UCI – Tsukuba Collaboration Receives Press Attention for New Exercise Study Out in PNAS

A new follow-up study to previously published work, by Dr. Michael Yassa and collaborators Kazuya Suwabe, Kyeongho Byun and Professor Hideaki Soya at the University of Tsukuba, examined the effects of a ten-minute period of exercise on the connectivity in the brain using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They found that a single bout of moderate exertion was enough to not only improve performance on memory tests, but yield a significant increase to the strength of the connectivity between the hippocampus and the cortex, two brain structures heavily implicated in creating and retrieving memories.

Although the lasting power of these enhancements remains to be investigated, these results lend a sense of optimism to the future of lifestyle treatments for memory impairments, such as Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias.

The Translational Neurobiology Lab has received much media attention for these findings from news sources including The Guardian, Psychology Today, and MSN Health News. You can read the UC Irvine press release here and the original PNAS paper can be found here.

Moderate Exercise Immediately Improves Memory Performance

The most recent findings to emerge from the Translational Neurobiology Lab’s collaboration with Dr. Hideaki Soya and colleagues at the University of Tsukuba (Ibaraki, Japan) may bring good news to the “moderately fit” among us. Their paper published in Nature’s Scientific Reports found that higher levels of aerobic fitness are associated with an aspect of memory that allows us to create more sharply-defined memories of similar experiences, as opposed to only remembering their commonalities. Students of varying levels of aerobic fitness from the University of Tsukuba were recruited to participate in a memory test that required them to discern whether they were being presented with an image that was exactly the same as one they were shown previously. This test, known as the mnemonic discrimination task challenges a process in the brain called pattern separation, which has also been shown to be vulnerable to age-related cognitive decline. In this study, aerobic fitness level is assumed to be linked with the endurance capacity that results from high levels of physical fitness, which has been shown to improve memory and cognition. A second paper published by the UC Irvine – Tsukuba team in the journal Hippocampus suggests that a benefit to performance on this task may be attained after just ten minutes of moderate exercise. They proposed that exercise may be activating the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for carrying out pattern separation. A possible long-term effect of moderate exercise is aerobic activity-linked “neurogenesis,” the birth of new brain cells, which increases the number of neurons available to make new connections. Future studies will be needed to assess the brain mechanisms.

Suwabe, K., Hyodo, K., Byun, K., Ochi, G., Fukuie, T., Shimizu, T., … & Soya, H. (2017). Aerobic fitness associates with mnemonic discrimination as a mediator of physical activity effects: evidence for memory flexibility in young adults. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 5140.

CNS Young Investigator Award

Congratulations to Dr. Michael Yassa and Dr. Morgan Barense (University of Toronto) for being awarded the Cognitive Neuroscience Society 2018 Young Investigator award!

The purpose of the awards is to recognize outstanding contributions by scientists early in their careers. Two awardees, one male and one female, are named by the Awards Committee, and are honored at the CNS annual meeting. Morgan Barense and Mike Yassa will give their award lectures on Monday, March 26, 2018, 1:30 –2:30 pm, Constitution Ballroom of the Sheraton Boston Hotel in Boston, MA.

You can read both of their abstracts on the YIA page of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s website.