Many past studies have shown that exercise and regular physical activities improve the brain’s overall health and efficiency. Regular exercise contributes to the generation of new neurons, strengthening of connections, and efficiency of the brain functions. A new study shows how physical inactivity leads to brain alteration in the same alarming manner that it causes harm to the cardiovascular system and a person’s general wellbeing.

The research team observed mice in the laboratory. One group of six mice was kept in a cage, which allowed the mice to run on wheels. A normal rat runs on wheels at an average of 2 hours per day. The other group of five mice was confined in a cage without a wheel and their confinement forced them to be sedentary. The observation spanned 12 weeks.

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After the period, the spinal cords of the mice were injected with a dye which travelled to their brains. Certain neurons in the rostral ventral medulla were the focus of the study because that particular brain region controls the sympathetic nervous system.

With a computer program that detected the regions travelled by the dye, the scientists were able to recreate the rats’ brain regions and observe how the neurons of the brains differed between the subjects in the two cages. The neurons of the sedentary mice had more branches than those of the active rats. This indicates that more stimuli are inputted to the sedentary mice’s brains, and results to over-stimulation of their sympathetic nervous systems. The neurons’ over-excitement sends heightened signals, raises the blood pressure and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease in the mice.

Deeper studies will be conducted pursuing these initial findings to match up the brain changes between humans and mice. Study leader Patrick Mueller says that sedentary people’s brain undergo alterations that are actually the cause of health deterioration. Mueller, who is a physiologist at Wayne State University School of Medicine, adds that the cases of cardiovascular health issues are increasing because more people are living sedentary lifestyles.