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Brains On Exercise: How Well Do We See While Exercising

17 February 2017, 8:30 am EST By Livia Rusu Tech Times
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New research has shown the first correlation between exercising and improved vision in humans. The research did not, however, manage to explain the underlying reasons behind exercising and this type of enhanced cognitive activity.  ( Don Arnold | Getty Images )

While it is generally accepted that exercise has a massive contribution to a healthy lifestyle, way beyond the benefits of being fit, researchers have now investigated the connection between exercising and good eyesight. According to the study, it appears that exercising can enhance vision.

The researchers were intrigued by recent findings, according to which neuron firing rates in the brains of mice and flies were linked to an increased visual processing when doing physical activities. The researchers wanted to test this hypothesis on humans as well.

Exercise Linked To Improved Vision

The study, carried out by researchers at UC Santa Barbara, was published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

As part of the research, the scientists designed an experiment employing neuroimaging techniques and behavioral measures to assess the ways in which physical exercise impacts human performance and the associated neural activity.

"We found evidence for inverted-U effects; such that the peak of the reconstructed feature-selective tuning profiles was highest during low-intensity exercise compared with those estimated during rest and high-intensity exercise," noted the research.

The scientists found that low-intensity exercise improved the activity in the subjects' visual cortex, which is the area of the cerebral cortex highly used in processing visual information.

The researchers showed that there was an increased activity in the subjects' brains, called arousal, consisting of changes in the way information is represented.

"There's an interesting cross-species link that shows these effects of arousal might have similar consequences for how visual information is processed. That implies the evolution of something that might provide a competitive advantage in some way," noted Barry Giesbrecht, co-author of the research.

The researchers conducted their study on 18 different volunteers, each of whom was tested about the impact of exercising on different areas of cognitive function. The subjects were asked to wear an EEG cap and a wireless monitor that indicated their heart rates.

The subjects were asked to exercise on a stationary bicycle, under specific recommendations from the researchers. Additionally, the subjects were given a series of tasks to be performed while they were resting and in between the sessions of low-intensity and high-intensity exercise.

The researchers introduced the data from the subjects into a model that gave them the possibility to assess the neural responses of the subjects concerning the visual stimuli. Then the scientists analyzed the stimuli while the subjects were resting and during high- and low-intensity exercise.

"When modeled, these effects were driven by changes in the gain of the tuning curve and in the profile bandwidth during low-intensity exercise relative to rest. Thus, despite profound differences in visual pathways across species, these data show that sensitivity in human visual cortex is also enhanced during locomotive behavior," also noted the research.

Eyesight Research And Recent Discoveries

Previous research has focused on different aspects of eyesight and the manners in which it can be improved, from following specific dietary habits to research carried out exclusively in labs. For instance, as part of a recent study, scientists have managed to restore vision in blind mice.

According to the team who conducted that research, it is entirely possible to retrieve communicational functions between the brain and the eye, given the proper growth factors for the retina and the cognitive pathway of the brain.

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