The muscles in the body respond to exercise by making new mitochondria, the very small structures inside cells that provide the body with energy. Wondering if brain cells could do the same thing, J.Mark Davis, a physiologist at the University of South Carolina and his colleagues studied the effects of exercise on the brains of mice. They found that “a master regulator” of mitochondria production increased in the brain after half an hour a day on a treadmill. There appeared to be more mitochondrial DNA, providing “gold standard” evidence of more mitochondria. “It appears that the brain adapts and changes by bringing more of these powerhouses online” says Davis.
These findings may help researchers understand how exercise can ward off disease and age-related decline in brain capacity. The increased energy supply to the brain may help in dementia prevention and mood regulation. “The evidence is accumulating rapidly that exercise keeps the brain younger,” Davis says……Scientific American Mind Stephani Sutherland March/April 2012