BrainWorks: Exercise and the Brain


SPEAKER 1: Brainworks
is made possible with generous support provided
by the Dean Witter Foundation, working to expand innovative
K through 12 public education initiatives. More at
deanwitterfoundation.org. SPEAKER 2: With additional
program support provided by The Dana Foundation,
your gateway to responsible information about the brain. More at dana.org. SPEAKER 3: Brainworks. SPEAKER 4: Brainworks. SPEAKER 6: Brainworks. SPEAKER 7: Brainworks. SPEAKER 5: The show– SPEAKER 6: Where we learn– SPEAKER 4: All about– SPEAKER 3: The brain. NOGGIN: With me,
Noggin, the brain. ERIC CHUDLER: In
this episode, we’ll learn about how exercise
affects the brain. [WHISTLE BLOWS] [MUSIC PLAYING] ERIC CHUDLER: Welcome
to Brainworks. My name’s Eric Chudler. I’m a neuroscientist
in the department of bioengineering at the
University of Washington. I’m also the executive director
of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering. What all that means is I’m
really interested in how the brain works. BEN: Hey, Eric. Think fast. ERIC CHUDLER: Right
back at you, Ben. Hey, Jaden. You want to play? JADEN: Sure. PEARL: Hey, everyone. Can I play. ERIC CHUDLER: Hey, come on over. Hey, guys. JADEN: Hey, Micah. ERIC CHUDLER: Hey, Micah. JANNAH: Hey, everyone. ERIC CHUDLER: Hey, Jannah. Come on over. [MUSIC PLAYING] ERIC CHUDLER: Hey, I’m glad you
could all make it to the gym today. I wanted to talk to you
today about exercise. How does exercise affect you? BEN: Well, when I
was just running, I was breathing really hard. PEARL: When I ride my scooter,
I get tired really fast. ERIC CHUDLER:
Yeah, exercise does have a powerful effect on
your muscles, on your lungs, on your heart. How do we test our bodies to
see how exercise affects you? JADEN: Let’s do some exercise
and see how it affects our hearts and our breathing. MICAH: Good idea Jaden. We could take some
measurements before and after and see how it changed. ERIC CHUDLER: Sounds good. I’ve got some stuff over here
to help us test ourselves. Let’s go. Come on in, everybody. I’ve got everything
set up in here. Before you start exercising,
let’s take your blood pressure and your respiration
rate so we have something to measure it against after. So just breathe normally
for about one minute. In and out. That’s one breath. OK? Everybody ready? And go. [BREATHING SOUNDS] ERIC CHUDLER: And stop. Let’s test your
blood pressure first. Ben, come over here. I’ll show you how
it works on you. BEN: Cool, I’m the Guinea pig. ERIC CHUDLER: It’s
pretty easy to use. All you have to do is slide
the cuff above your elbow, get it in place. Hold it here. And push the button. JADEN: Like this, Eric? ERIC CHUDLER: Hey, come on. That’s not how it works. Jannah and Pearl, why don’t
you test Jaden and Micah, and then swap? And Ben, why don’t you
take their results? OK? BEN: All right. We’ve got all of them. ERIC CHUDLER: Great
job, everyone. Now, let’s do some exercise. Jannah, you hang
out with me here, so you’ll be our
control subject. So we can compare your
data to everyone else’s. Micah and Pearl, I want you to
shoot hoops for three minutes. Jaden and Ben, I want
you to run laps, OK? PEARL: OK. MICAH: All right. That sounds cool. Let’s go. [MUSIC PLAYING] ERIC CHUDLER: Come
on in, everybody. Great job. OK. It’s now time to count
your breaths again. In one minute. Ready? Count them starting now. [BREATHING SOUNDS] ERIC CHUDLER: Stop. Now, let’s take your
blood pressure again. So pair up. And Jannah, you’re going
to be last, because you are our control subject. Sound OK? [MUSIC PLAYING] ERIC CHUDLER: Let’s
head back to the gym. Let’s talk about the results. What do you guys see? PEARL: There definitely is an
increase in all categories. BEN: Yeah, Jannah’s is the
only one that didn’t increase, which makes sense because
she didn’t exercise. ERIC CHUDLER: Yes, all those
functions did increase. But did you also
know that there’s more blood flow and more
oxygen that gets to your brain when you exercise? MICAH: Does that mean
your brain functions better when you exercise? ERIC CHUDLER: Well, Micah, it’s
a little bit more complicated than that. But I’ve got some
friends who are experts on the brain and exercise. And we can go talk to them. In fact, I think a trip to
Seattle Children’s is in order. Who wants to go? PEARL: Sounds fun, I’ll go. BEN: Yeah, me too. ERIC CHUDLER: OK. And the rest of us will go
see a friend of mine who’s another expert on the brain. Hey, who wants to
play a game of horse? JADEN: I do. ERIC CHUDLER: Let’s go. [WHISTLE BLOWS] NOGGIN: What percentage
of the body’s blood flows through the
brain– 50%, 20%, or 40%? Say tuned after the break
to find our the answer. SPEAKER 1: Brainworks
is made possible with generous support provided
by the Dean Witter Foundation, working to expand innovative
K through 12 public education initiatives. More at
deanwitterfoundation.org. SPEAKER 2: With additional
program support provided by The Dana Foundation,
your gateway to responsible information about the brain. More at dana.org. NOGGIN: What percentage
of the body’s blood flows through the
brain– 50%, 20%, or 40%? The answer is 20%. [BELL RINGING] PEARL: We tested how exercise
affected our blood pressure and breathing rate. BEN: Yeah, exercise increased
both of those things for me. PEARL: We wanted to see
how it affected our brain, so we came to the Seattle
Children’s Research Institute to discuss with a
researcher on the topic. BEN: Dr. Tandon, can you
tell us about your research? DR. POOJA S. TANDON:
Sure, I’d love to. Let’s come over here
and talk some more. So I’m a pediatrician
and a researcher. And part of my job is to take
care of kids who are sick. But another very
important part of my job is to make sure that
they stay healthy. And one of the things that
kids can do to stay healthy is exercise. Be active, move their bodies. And that’s important for
things like their heart, and their muscles,
and their bones. But there’s a lot
of research now that shows that when you
move, when you exercise, it actually helps your brain. BEN: So how do you
test those things? DR. POOJA S. TANDON: I work
with younger kids, much younger than you, 3, 4, and 5-year-olds
who go to preschools. And we want to see, are
they able to focus better, can they learn better after
they’ve been running around, being active for 15
minutes, compared to when they’ve been sitting and
doing things that preschoolers might do, like color or play
with blocks, or play with toys? So somebody from my team might
run around with them outside and do the kinds
of active things that 3, 4, and
5-year-olds like to do. And then we bring
them inside and we do some little games with them. PEARL: What kind of games? DR. POOJA S. TANDON:
Let me show you. So these are two examples. We do about five
different games with them. And we call them games because
that’s what they can really understand. And they are kind of fun. But these are really meant
to test how much they can pay attention and
follow directions, which is one of the
benefits that we think physical activity has. This one is called
monkey dragon. And we have two puppets. And they’d be sitting down, like
kind of how we’re sitting here. And then we give them
the instructions. So we’ll say something like,
so this is a good monkey. And when this monkey tells
you what to do, you do it. This is a grumpy dragon, and
when this dragon tells you what to do, you don’t do it. And we kind of, you
know, animate our voices so they’re really engaged. And we tell them
to do, really– we ask them to do simple things. Like we might say,
touch your nose. And so when the monkey
says it, they’re supposed to touch their nose. And then we might say,
stick out your tongue. And some kids might stick out
their tongue, because that’s what we asked them to do. But if they were
really thinking, and if they were really
paying attention, they would remember that
when the grumpy dragon tells you to do something,
you don’t do it. And then two weeks
later, or a week or two later, we might go back
to their preschool. And after having
them do something like coloring or playing
while sitting down, we do the same tests. BEN: So why do you do these
tests when they’re so young? DR. POOJA S. TANDON: You
know, there’s actually already lots of research
in kids that are in elementary school, or
your age, or high school, and even adults that
when you exercise, you can pay attention
better, you learn better, you get better grades,
and better test scores. So I was really
interested in seeing if those same relationships,
if that benefit still existed in the
younger kids, partly because when kids
are that young, you can still really encourage
them to learn healthy behaviors and shape their health
from a young age. So it can last a lifetime. PEARL: Wow, I’m glad I
started gymnastics so young. BEN: I wish I had. I wish I started
a sport younger. DR. POOJA S. TANDON: That’s OK. It’s never too late to start. Well, I hope you
learned something today about why exercise is so
important for our brain. PEARL: Yeah, thank you. BEN: Thank you, Dr. Tandon. ERIC CHUDLER: We’re
going to do an experiment to see how exercise
affects memory. PEARL: We’re going
to do a memory test to see if our scores
go up with exercise. MICAH: We’ll have one
minute to memorize 20 items. BEN: Then some of us are going
to do exercise and some of us will read a book. JADEN: We’ll look
at the items again after and memorize and see
what happens to our results. ERIC CHUDLER: OK. You have one minute
to memorize 20 items. [BELL RINGS] ERIC CHUDLER: Here we go. Ready? On your mark, get set, memorize. [WHISTLE BLOWS] [MUSIC PLAYING] ERIC CHUDLER: And stop. OK. Now you’ll have three minutes
to remember everything that you just saw. Take one of these clipboards. And go. [MUSIC PLAYING] ERIC CHUDLER: And stop. Now we want Pearl,
Micah, and Jannah, I want you to jump
rope for two minutes. And Ben and Jaden, I want
you to just read those books over there for two minutes. OK? I’ll meet you back here later. [MUSIC PLAYING] NOGGIN: Stay tuned. Later in the show, we’ll see
how our memory test turns out. How much blood flows through
the brain every minute– 4 liters, 2 liters, or 1 liter? Stay tuned after the break
to find out the answer. SPEAKER 1: Brainworks
is made possible with generous support provided
by the Dean Witter Foundation, working to expand innovative
k through 12 public education initiatives. More at
deanwitterfoundation.org. SPEAKER 2: With additional
program support provided by The Dana Foundation,
your gateway to responsible information about the brain. More at data.org. [MUSIC PLAYING] NOGGIN: How much blood
flows through the brain every minutes– 4 liters,
2 liters, or 1 liter? The answer is 1 liter. [BELL RINGING] ERIC CHUDLER: Come
on over, everybody. Time to memorize again. Now you have 20
different objects, and you’ll have one more minute
to memorize as many objects as you can. These are different than before. Ready to memorize? Go. PEARL: Hey. [MUSIC PLAYING] ERIC CHUDLER: And done. Now write down as many of those
items as you can remember. [MUSIC PLAYING] ERIC CHUDLER: And done. How do you think you all did? JADEN: I think I
did about the same. Yeah, JANNAH: Me too. MICAH: I may have done
better, but I definitely was tired when I was writing. ERIC CHUDLER: Well,
let’s take a look. Everyone score
someone else to see how many they remembered
before and after exercising or reading. OK. Let’s start with the readers. Who’s got Jaden’s results? BEN: I do. She got 16 correct
the first time, and 17 correct afterwards. ERIC CHUDLER: And Ben’s? MICAH: I do. He got 17 the first time
and 17 the second time. ERIC CHUDLER: So what does
that tell you about reading? BEN: It seems like, generally,
we got about the same after reading. Not much change. ERIC CHUDLER: Yeah, not much
did change after reading. Now, how about the exercisers? PEARL: I have Micah. He got 19 correct the first time
and 19 correct the second time. JADEN: I have Jannah’s results. She got 14 the first time
and 17 the second time. JANNAH: I have Pearl’s results. She got 18 the second time
and 15 the first time. ERIC CHUDLER: So what does
that say about exercise? It seems that, in
general, their memories got better with exercise. MICAH: Wait, so if I run for
every test, I’ll do better? ERIC CHUDLER: Well, not quite. Exercise is good for your body
and it is good for your brain. You need to exercise
for good brain health. We’ve done some
experiments to see how exercise affects the brain. JADEN: We saw how our
bodies reacted to exercise and how that
increased in function. JANNAH: And we saw
how our memories may have been affected by exercise. MICAH: So we wanted to talk
to an actual doctor who can tell us what exercise
actually does inside the brain. Let’s find out. JADEN: Exercise is hard
work, but is it really good for my brain? DR. JOHN J. MEDINA: Yes. Exercise is very
good for your brain. Moderate aerobic
activity has the ability to change a cognitive gadget
we call executive function. JANNAH: What is
executive function? Sounds like something an office
worker or a business person should do. DR. JOHN J. MEDINA:
Executive function has two gadgets in
it– cognitive control, and the other,
emotional regulation. People who are really good
with executive function, oddly enough, are often
really good at math, you guys. And the reason why is that
they’re not freaked out when they see a problem
they can’t understand, because they have really
good impulse control. And with cognitive control,
they can focus, defocus, and refocus again. So is executive function
a good thing to have? You darn right. Executive function is an
extraordinary cognitive gadgets to aid and abet. MICAH: Sounds like executive
functions are important. DR. JOHN J. MEDINA: You
know, it’s really important. And in the United
States, when we don’t do very well
at science and math, being able to have
strong executive function is a big deal. And the reason why
we’re talking about it is that there’s an
easy way to boost it. The easy way to
boost it is to engage in moderate aerobic activity. Do you know what I mean by
moderate aerobic activity? You know what you
actually have to do? You actually have to
walk too fast to sing. And you have to do it 150
minutes in a seven day period. So for seven days, with 150
minutes– so 30 minutes a day, five days a week would
do it– of just walking too fast to sing is both
necessary and sufficient to be able to boost
executive function 20%, 30%. I’ve seen studies that
go up to 50% and 80%. So if you really wanted
to do really good at math and science, the last thing
in the world you would ever get rid of is PE. In fact, it would
be the first thing you would do in order to aid and
abet your executive function. JADEN: What does exercise
do to executive function? DR. JOHN J. MEDINA: We think
angiogenesis, the ability to create blood vessels,
is one of the reasons why exercise works. That’s the first reason. And here’s the second. The second reason, or at least
a phenomenon that you can show, is something we
call neurogenesis. Exercise has been shown
to increase neurogenesis in those very areas
of the brain that are also going to get a lot more
goodies with the blood vessels. So this hippocampus is
really getting a lot of work out from your workout, which
is a great way to say it. And that’s the second reason. The third one, one of
my favorite molecules in all of neuroland is
called BDNF– Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor. Brain derived
neurotrophic factor is like Miracle Gro– which is
a kind of a fertilizer you can get at a nursery– for the
neural cells in your brain, and certainly in the dish. You dump a bunch of BDNF
in certain experiments, in certain dishes, and you look. And the neurons are just
loving it, and they’re growing, and they’re
connecting, and they’re doing all kinds of things. We now know that
aerobic exercise, moderate aerobic exercise,
boosts BDNF gene expression. So we think these three things–
neurogenesis, angiogenesis, and BDNF expression– are the
reasons aerobic exercise boosts brain power. ERIC CHUDLER: That really
clears things up for us. Thank you very much for
stopping by Dr. Medina. DR. JOHN J. MEDINA:
Oh, my pleasure. [MUSIC PLAYING] NOGGIN: Where are
new neurons formed after exercise– the
thalamus, the hippocampus, or the occipital lobe? Stay tuned after the break
to find out the answer. SPEAKER 1: Brain
works is made possible with generous support provided
by the Dean Witter Foundation, working to expand innovative
k through 12 public education initiatives. More at
deanwitterfoundation.org. SPEAKER 2: With additional
program support provided by The Dana Foundation,
your gateway to responsible information about the brain. More at data.org. [MUSIC PLAYING] NOGGIN: Where are
new neurons formed after exercise– the
thalamus, the hippocampus, or the occipital lobe? The answer is the hippocampus. [BELL RINGING] ERIC CHUDLER: Hey,
Ben, hey Pearl. BEN: Hey. ERIC CHUDLER: How’d
it go with Dr. Tandon? BEN: It was great. We learned a lot
about her research. PEARL: Yeah, it was
really interesting. JADEN: Well, now that
you guys are back, let’s welcome our guest Nancy. Come on over, Nancy. MICAH: Hey, Nancy. NANCY ERICKSON: Hi, everyone. Thanks for having me here. PEARL: We can learned
that working out helps the brain function better. What experiences do you have? NANCY ERICKSON: As a child,
it seemed I was always active, because my parents were active. And I lived on a lake. I grew up on a lake. And so I spent a
lot of time swimming and just running around up
and down the hill to my house. And then as I got older, I
enjoyed swimming on swim team. And then bicycling. And then I did a little
bit of bike racing. MICAH: So we learned that
exercising helps increase blood flow to the brain, make
neurons, and a fancy protein called BDNF. So how do you think staying
active has helped you over the years? NANCY ERICKSON: Well,
I do know that when I miss a day of exercise, I
just don’t quite feel as well. And when I do exercise, I
come back and I feel great. I feel that I have
lots of energy, that I can do all the things I
set out to do during the day. I feel more organized,
and just have the energy to start and finish the day. JANNAH: What’s your
favorite way to exercise? NANCY ERICKSON: It
used to be bicycling, but that takes a
little more time now. So now I really enjoy jogging. And I especially enjoy jogging
with my husband and our two dogs. And it benefits my husband
because he’s got Parkinson’s. And when he does this
kind of exercise, either bicycling or running,
it helps alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s. ERIC CHUDLER:
There’s good research to suggest that exercise
is great for people with Parkinson’s disease. It increases flexibility. It increases muscle strength. And it also releases some
of those brain chemicals like Micah mentioned, that BDNF. So exercise is good for people
without Parkinson’s disease, and is really good for people
with Parkinson’s disease. NANCY ERICKSON: A lot
of Parkinson’s people have trouble with balance,
but when you get consistent, good exercise like that, you
just don’t have that problem. And that’s another thing for
me too is as you get older, you really need to
hang onto your balance, because you need to prevent
falls and that sort of thing. But I find that getting
exercise every single day just helps me with that. JADEN: Well, thank you
for joining us and sharing your experiences. NANCY ERICKSON: Well,
it was a pleasure. Thanks for having me. ERIC CHUDLER: And it’s
a great day outside. Hey, let’s go outside and
throw the Frisbee around, OK? Let’s go. NANCY ERICKSON: Yeah, have fun. ALL: Brainworks. [MUSIC PLAYING] ERIC CHUDLER: Thanks for
joining us here at Brainworks. JANNAH: We’ve seen a lot
today on how exercise affects the brain and the body. JADEN: Not only will
exercise get you into top physical
shape, it can also do wonders for
your mental shape. MICAH: Of course, you should
always check with your doctor before you start an
exercise program. BEN: But it’s never too
early or late to start. So get yourself moving. PEARL: Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you next
time on Brainworks. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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