PERREAULT Magazine MARCH | APRIL 2016 - Page 68

Perreault Magazine - 68 -

Other researchers confirmed the idea that the hippocampus was involved in imagination, or as they described it, “future thinking,” when they put subjects in a brain scanner and found a widespread network of brain structures including the hippocampus was activated when they asked subjects to imagine a particular scenario.

We know from studies in both humans and rodents that there are brand new brain cells born in the hippocampus throughout adulthood. In fact, it is one of only two brain structures in which new brain cells are born as adults. We also know from studies in rodents that exercise can actually increase the rate of those neurons being born as well as their survival. Exercise also has been shown to improve memory function in rodents, consistent with the first major function of the hippocampus. But if exercise can enhance memory function, might it enhance imagination as well? It is too early to say, as these studies have not yet been done, but I can say that my own increased exercise regime also seemed to correspond with an increase in my creativity in the courses that I was developing and even the scientific questions that I was tackling. Was it because my hippocampus was bursting with brand new brain cells from increased exercise, and this led to an increase in my creativity, or might it have been my transformed mindset? Impossible to say from personal observation alone, but understanding the effects of exercise on imagination is one of the questions I am now examining in my lab.

The take home message is this: the effects of exercise are so much more than skin (or muscle) deep. Exercise can change your brain, your mind and your mindset, and has the potential to change your life in profound ways. I might have started going to the gym to get stronger, but I ended up happier, more active, and more creative. Beyond personal transformation, the effects of exercise on the brain also have exciting implications for society as a whole. These findings suggest that increases in regular exercise may not only decrease rates of heart disease, dementia and cancer, but could work to inspire and motivate positive change at the community, city, state and even global levels. What could happen if a whole community increased their creativity through regular exercise?

New community programs? Better communication? More activism? The possibilities are exciting. And all you have do is get moving.

Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D.

Professor of Neural Science and Psychology

Center for Neural Science

New York University

Author of

Healthy Brain Happy Life:

A Personal Program to Activate your Brain and Do Everything Better"

Continued from page 67