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Exercise and The Brain

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Daniel Rosen

on 24 September 2013

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Transcript of Exercise and The Brain

Exercise and The Brain
How Physical Activity Can Combat Stress and Anxiety

How does information travel in the brain ?
Try and follow me here!
- type of cell responsible for processing and transmitting information through electrical and chemical signals

- we have billions of neurons and they "chat" with one another to govern our thoughts and actions in any given situation
- the structure permitting a neuron to pass a signal to another neuron

- the junction between two neurons where a neurotransmitter is needed to carry the message across
The bottom line ...
- neurons receive the message, pass it on from the axon, through the synapse (with the help of a neurotransmitter) and the dendrites of the next neuron receive the message.

- if you just listened to what I said your neurons are firing signals like wild fire trying to understand this new information.

- you all now know the basics of neuroscience
- necessary for transferring signals across synapses

- there are about 100 identified but the true number is unknown


- each neurotransmitter used for different reasons
Why doesn't this guy just tell us how it happens ?
- what I didn't mention earlier were dendrites and axons which are branches of neurons

- axon branches carry information to the synapse, and dendrites branches receive the information for the next neuron.
What is Psychological Stress?
- a challenge and call to adaptation by the mind to mobilize resources for reaction to a situation

- stress is not inherently bad

- the problem lies in chronic, negatively overwhelming stress

So what happens when you are stressed?
- your brain fires messages for adrenal glands to dump out adrenaline, heart rate increases, blood pressure increases, breathing increases, etc ..

- different hormones are secreted during the process to mobilize your body toward reaction to a threat (adrenaline, cortisol, etc...)

- human beings are unique because we can turn on the stress response just imagining a threat/ we can think ourselves into chronic stress
The Brain and Stress
- essentially the brains panic button

- has the job of assigning intensity to incoming information/threat

- the "emotional" center for the brain

- sets off fight our flight response

Pre Frontal Cortex
- organizes activity, mental and physical, receives input and issues instructions to different areas of the brain for further handling

- sort of the brain's "CEO", inhibits stimulus, calls to action, plans, predicts, etc...

- very active when learning something new, but quiets upon completion of the task because knows other areas are capable of handling the process
- helps form new memories
by cross references with existing memories to form associations

- help Pre-Frontal Cortex do its job of knowing what to do with new input, and also helps the amygdala in cementing memories of emotional states
- your body wants to engrave a memory to avoid situation again

- amygdala signals hippocampus to start recording memories

- with help from pre frontal cortex the hippocampus can compare memories

- during stress response, memories not related to stress response are blocked
What is happening in these areas during stress ?
- during chronic stress the amygdala is having a field day creating new connections relating to fear and threats

- the hippocampul neurons become obsessed with stress and can not access or make new relaxing memories due to excess cortisol keeping the mental stress response firing

- as cortisol levels continuie to rise, brain cells are overworked with cementing these stressful memories that hippocampus begins to shrink as old memories become suppressed and less important.
Bottom Line
- when you are chronically stressed your hippocampus loses the ability to compare a situation to a past memory, like if you talk to your friends you might feel better.

- realistic/positive thoughts and memories dissipate in hippocampus

- the vicious cycle makes almost everything seem stressful and overwhelming
How does exercise help alleviate effects of stress?
- gives brain the building blocks to for neurogenesis and neuroplasticity (meaning neurons can build and connect in new ways)

- increases regulatory neurotransmitters which help quell the stress responses

- increases levels of ANP (Atrial Natriuretic Peptide) while relaxing resting muscle tension

BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor)
- miracle-gro for the neurons, help neurons sprout new dendrites and axons.

- leads to new connections in ares of the brain that are specifically attacked with chronic stress

- releases antioxidants and protective proteins in cells

- helps brain uptake more ....
IGF-1 (Insulin Like Growth Factor)
- works with human growth hormone and insulin to fight cell deterioration
FGF 2 (Fibroblast Growth Factor)
- protein needed to create more blood vessels needed to stimulate growth of new neurons
VEGF (vascular endothelia growth factor)
- signals cells to divide for more blood vessels,
produced in the brain to help cement memories
- exercise increases levels and receptors for both dopamine and serotonin

- both neurotransmitters help with feelings of well being and relaxation
ANP ( atrial natriuretic peptide)
- newly discovered

- hormone that relaxes the body's stress response and quiets the noise in the head when stressed

- adds to the reality that exercise relaxes resting tension in muscles

- combined this can break the stress-feedback loop between the brain and body
Take Home Message
During Exercise Your Brain:
- increases BDNF and other building blocks necessary for new connections in the brain

- increases levels of neurotransmitters related to feelings of well being and hormones like ANP which help slow down the stress response

- learns that it can overcome feelings of stress through physical activity
- excessive worry about a threat to the point of not being able to function normally

- generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, agrophobia, panic disorder, etc...

- all share symptoms of sever stress, a cognitive misinterpertation of a situation
The Brain is going haywire ...
- essentially anxiety is fear

- amygdala calls the signal that we are in trouble, the "all clear" signal is not working

- pre-frontal cortex can not do its job correctly, one of which is to tell your amygdala to shut up

- with unchecked fear amygdala goes wild attaching the feeling that everything is a challenge to survival, burning in memories of stress
- those with anxiety disorders can not distinguish very well between fear and safety

- the hippocampus is over whelmed with amygdala activity

- it can not do its job of putting fears into realistic context so things spiral out of control
Active Coping
- doing something in response to danger/anxiety shifts path of information in the brain

- exercise can serve as form of active coping

- by doing something in response to an anxious feeling you can learn that a situation is not hopeless
Once again - Neurotransmitters and ANP
- GABA (gama amino butyric acid) - crucial for stopping anxiety, helps interrupt the obsessive feedback loop of excess worry

- acts to increase circulating levels of same neurotransmitters as anti-depressants used to treat anxiety and depression

- ANP counteracts aspects of stress response, blunts anxiety, regulates mood
- directly counters mechanisms of anxiety

- buffers stress response so it doesn't spiral out of control

- elevates mood

- gives you a sense of control over your well-being
Dendrite Shrinkage
How does exercise relieve anxiety?
- much in the same way exercise can revleive stress!

- can relieve both state and trait anxiety
Lets make this simple!
Physical and Mental Well-Being Go Hand In Hand
- With exercise you can help optimize both physical and MENTAL health.

"A profile MRI of the brain with color shaded areas corresponding to areas of increased gray matter volume in active people. The blue crosshairs point to increased volume in the hippocampus with more calories burned per week. The hippocampus is the key memory and learning center of the brain. "


Stress- Portrait of a killer, watch 4:07- 8:45
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