Not just muscle growth, here’s how exercise also boosts brain function – India Today

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For years, researchers have known that exercise prompts muscles to release molecules that enhance brain function, but the process has always remained unclear. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers have recently found that nerves stimulating muscles increase the release of brain-boosting factors.

“The molecules released from the muscle go into the bloodstream and then to the brain, producing so-called crosstalk between the muscle and the brain. We wondered, what is the effect of the neurons on this activity of the muscle, and further down to the communication between muscle and brain?” said study leader Hyunjoon Kong, whose research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


“As we age, or due to disease or injury, we lose these neurons in muscles. Understanding their role is crucial for older adults and patients with neuromuscular issues,” he added.

Research shows that exercising muscles secrete hormones and tiny extracellular vesicles carrying RNA fragments that improve brain cell connectivity and communication.


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However, the role of nerves stimulating muscles is less understood, explained graduate student Kai-Yu Huang, the study’s first author.

To investigate, researchers used a novel tissue model that compared muscle tissues with and without neurons. They found that muscles with neurons produced more molecules that help the brain and better regulated muscle growth.

When they stimulated the nerves with glutamate, a neurotransmitter, the muscles with neurons showed higher levels of a gene that controls secretion and released more of the irisin hormone and extracellular vesicles.

“As we age, losing nerve supply to muscles leads to their breakdown, affecting overall organ function. Understanding how to maintain muscle’s secretion is vital,” said Huang.

Our organs communicate: the brain stimulates muscles via nerves, and muscles release molecules that benefit the brain.

“Exercise strengthens the neuron-muscle interface, enhancing brain function. This highlights the importance of fostering this connection through exercise, beyond just building muscle strength,” Kong added.

Published By:

Daphne Clarance

Published On:

May 15, 2024

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