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Cram for your exam, then sprint 15 minutes

New research points to better memory in conjunction with intense physical exercise. Copenhagen scientist asks readers to help him out with a test

The brain is often compared to a muscle.

If you exercise it, its function will improve. Research published this week has revealed that intense bursts of physical activity helps you to learn and memorise.

Dr Marc Roig Pull led an experiment with a group of forty-eight people, which were put through their paces in a series of tracking and physical tasks.

The University Post asked Dr. Pull more details about the study, and what the implications are for students, say, for example, cramming to an exam. He e-mailed us his responses, and asks our readers to help him out.

15 minutes of exercise can enhance your memory

What drove you and your team to research this in the first place? Is this laying the foundations to continuing studies that you will be undertaking, if so where next?

»This first study demonstrated that the use of a single bout of exercise improves motor memory. The performance of 15 minutes of intense exercise is sufficient to enhance the consolidation motor of memory. This is an important and novel finding. However, in our lab we do basic research. We try to gain insight into the brain mechanisms involved in learning and memory.«

»In the same study, we took blood samples to analyze neurobiological mechanisms involved in the effects of this type of exercise on motor memory. We are currently writing a second manuscript with new data that underlies potential mechanisms responsible for these improvements in memory. These two studies serve as foundation for future projects.«

Needs to replicate in animals

»A major interest of our lab is to find new strategies to improve mobility in healthy people (e.g., athletes) but also in people with chronic conditions such as stroke or cerebral palsy (children).«

»As a continuation of these studies we first want to see if these effects can be extrapolated to other types of learning and memory. We also want to see if we can use this intervention to improve memory in children as well as people with mobility problems. «

»From a more mechanistic perspective, we are running animal experiments to see if we can replicate this finding in animals and really understand the mechanisms underlying this effect«.

Study hard and then run for it

For university students specifically, do you see this method of learning with physical exercise straight after, benefiting them physically and intellectually?

»Our results are promising and we think that this type of exercise could be used to optimize different types of memory. However, we need to be careful not to extrapolate our results to all cognitive tasks because perhaps the positive effects of exercise are specific to some types of memory only.«

»In any case, I would suggest students to try this: after some hours of hard study, go for an intense but short run (15 minutes). Do not check if you retained what you studied immediately after the run. Wait some hours or even better go to sleep. First thing in the next morning, check how well you remember things.«

»Perhaps you will have a wonderful surprise. If you do, feel free to contact me and explain to me your experience, I am interested«.

Talk to the doctor

Did you try this? Write to him on markredj @ sund.ku.dk

The University Post is looking to see if the research by UCPH works for you the readers too. So why not give it a try and once you finish studying or cramming in yet more valued knowledge, go for a good run or intense bike ride and see if it makes any difference to your capacity to retain and improve your memory.

So if you’re revising for an exam, learning Danish, or just looking to strengthen your memory for those everyday life situations, why not try these strategies and see if they help…we look forward to getting your responses.

universitypost@adm.ku.dk

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