Exercising Our Way to Sharper Patient Care
Included in multiple CME courses presented on line at Hospital Physician Partners On-Line University have been the virtues of Emergency Medicine Physicians and Hospitalists taking care of themselves off the job as a key to improving our management of our on-the-job performance. Scientists from the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging have recently attempted to study whether changes in muscles prompted by exercise affect the brain’s cognitive functions. They investigated the effects of endurance factors, (a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor δ agonist and AICAR, an activator of AMP-activated protein kinase) on memory and neurogenesis. The premise for their research was based on the finding that lab animals and people have been found to perform better on tests of cognition after several weeks of exercise. Furthermore studies have shown that endurance exercises increase the number of neurons in portions of the brain devoted to memory and learning.
Their published results showed that muscle endurance enhancing compounds improved spatial memory in sedentary mice. The behavioral enhancement may be due at least in part to increased dentate gyrus neurogenesis. In other words, the experimental animals’ brains contained far more new neurons in brain areas central to learning and memory than the brains of the control mice. These findings may lead to development of therapeutic agents that confer the benefits of exercise in conditions where activity is compromised such as in clinical practice. (Especially ones with challenging EMRs!)
In the meanwhile we owe it to our patients to take better care of ourselves. Based on these findings, exercise may make our brains better able to deal with the complex situations that pop up in many clinical cases. Maybe some of our muscle-headed colleagues really have something going after all. At the very least, science has proven that regular exercise will help prevent us from literally blowing a gasket…take it from me.
REFRENCE: Kobilo, T., Chunyan Yuan, C., van Praag, H., Endurance Factors Improve Hippocampal Neurogenesis and Spatial Memory in Mice., Journal Learn Mem., 2011 February; 18.