ISLAMABAD, May 25 (Online): New research suggests that moving one’s legs is crucial for brain health. In fact, exercising leg muscles helps the brain to produce new neurons, the study suggests. The findings help researchers to better understand the progression of neurological and motor neuron diseases.

Both astronauts and people who have been bedridden for prolonged periods of time experience a lot of physical changes.

For one thing, whether it’s due to antigravity or bed rest, muscles tend to shrink. In actual fact, research has shown that restricted muscle activity affects the entire neuromuscular function.

The link between movement and the brain is known to be a strong one. For instance, we know that the brain’s motor cortex sends signals to the spinal cord in order to get specific muscles to contract.

Interestingly, when some of the brain areas responsible for movement are damaged, the brain tries to “repair” itself through neuroplasticity — that is, the neurons’ ability to remap their connections, prompting a different part of the brain to take over.

Recently, more and more research has been focusing on the effect of voluntary physical activity on brain health.

For instance, some studies have shown that exercise can induce neurogenesis — meaning that it can help the brain to form new nerve cells — as well as counter the effects that aging has on the brain’s hippocampus, which is a brain area key for memory and information processing.

Now, a new study looks at how neural stem cells are affected by reduced leg movement. Neural stem cells are undifferentiated stem cells that will go on to develop either into neurons or other brain cells.

The researchers were led by Raffaella Adami, of the Università degli Studi di Milano in Italy, and their findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.