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STATES CHRONICLE – According to a new study, new information sticks better if you workout four hours after a learning session. Researchers found that vigorous physical activity can boost memory but only if it is done after four hours.
Guillén Fernández, co-author of the study and researcher at the Netherlands-based Radboud University Medical Center, said that sports indeed consolidates the memory but only if it is done right.
The study involved 72 adults who were asked to remember as many picture-space associations as they could in a 40 minute learning session. Next participants were divided into three groups.
The first group was asked to hit the gym immediately, the second group was asked to do some workout four hours later, while the third group did not exercise at all. The groups that exercised were asked to spend 35 minutes on a bike and ensure that their pulse hits 80 percent of their maximum heart rate.
After exactly two days, participants from all groups were called to test their long-term memory. The volunteers’ also agreed to have their brains scanned through MRI while solving the tests.
The study revealed that participants who exercised within the 4-hour time frame had a higher score on memory tests than the individuals in the other two groups. Brain imagery showed that these people’s hippocampus was more active when trying to answer the questions correctly. The hippocampus is a region of the brain that helps with learning and information consolidation.
Study authors believe that timed workout can boost long-term memory and the learning ability. Scientists recommend the new findings to be applied in schools and health facilities alike.
Still, researchers couldn’t tell why the 4-hour time window is so important for information consolidation. They speculate that it may have something to do with the levels of a group of hormones that helps the long-term memory: the catecholamines. These hormones which include dopamine get released by the body during exercise.
As a follow-up, researchers plan to further analyze the timing of the exercise and its molecular impact on learning and long-term memory.
The study, which was funded by the European Research Council, was published Wednesday in the medical journal Current Biology.
The findings are consistent with past studies which had found an association between physical activity and better thinking and memory. For instance, a 2014 study found that people who engage in moderate physical exercise for at least six months on a regular basis have larger prefrontal and medial temporal cortexes, two regions in the brain that help the brain with processing and retaining information.
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