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Research Reveals Positive Roles for Exercise, Diet, and Meditation in Aging and Depression—Neuroscience 2013

New studies released on Sunday, November 10, 2013, underscore the potential impact of healthy lifestyle choices in treating depression, the effects of aging, and learning. The research focused on the effects of mind/body awareness, exercise, and diet, and was presented in San Diego at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health. The 2013 meeting is being attended by approximately 30,000 scientists. The experiences and choices people make throughout life actively impact the brain. As humans live longer, these choices also affect aging and quality of life. Lifestyle changes to diet and exercise will be important to aging populations as non-drug, easy-to-follow interventions with few side effects, making ideal potential therapies. Today’s new findings show that: as few as 12 consecutive days of exercise in aging rats helps preserve and improve movement function, an effect possibly caused by changes in dopamine levels. The results suggest that exercise could stave off or reverse the slowed movements that are hallmarks of age (Jennifer Arnold, abstract 334.02); practices like yoga or meditation that increase mind/body awareness help people learn a brain-computer interface quicker. This finding may have implications for those who need brain-computer interfaces to function, such as people with paralysis (Bin He, Ph.D., abstract 16.06); long-term exercise in aging rats improves memory function, as well as increases the number of blood vessels in the white matter of their brains — the tracts that carry information between different areas of the brain. Increased blood flow may explain why exercise can help preserve memory (Yong Tang, M.D., Ph.D., abstract 236.09); regular, supervised exercise helped young adults with depression overcome their symptoms in a pilot study. The results suggest that exercise could be an important treatment for depression in adolescents (Robin Callister, Ph.D., abstract 13.02); a low-calorie diet starting in middle-age onward protected rats against the effects of aging on movement. The results suggest that dietary interventions can help preserve movement function in a manner similar to exercise (Michael Salvatore, Ph.D., abstract 334.17). “We all know that keeping fit is critically important to a healthy lifestyle, from combating the effects of aging to boosting our mood,” said press conference moderator Teresa Liu-Ambrose, P.T., Ph.D., Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia, who is an expert on exercise and its role in healthy aging. “Today’s results begin to show us not only how different types of exercise interventions can improve our lives, but how other types of lifestyle behaviors, from diet to meditative practice, can help us achieve wellness in our body and our brain as we age.” This research was supported by national funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, as well as private and philanthropic organizations. Find more information on exercise and brain wellness at BrainFacts.org. This report is based on a press release issued by the Society for Neuroscience on Sunday and a press conference given by relevant scientists, also on Sunday . Abstracts can be found on the Neuroscience 2013 web site (http://www.sfn.org/annual-meeting/neuroscience-2013). The Neuroscience meeting runs through November 13, 2013. [SfN program] [SfN 2013 meeting]