Why Travel Is Good For Your Brain

September 15, 2009 at 2:58 pm Leave a comment

Camping image by Inferatu on Stock.Xchng Travel is a traditional past time for retirees, but did you know it may also help keep the brain sharp, even in the face of illness like Alzheimer’s?

Traveling exposes us to new and novel landscapes, foods, cultures, and experiences – providing us with an enriched environment.  And enriched environments help keep the brain sharp – at least according to a fascinating study done on lab mice!

The Study

A group of mice were separated into two groups. One group of mice which spent their time in solitary, never-changing cages.  The other group were given an “enriched environment”, meaning they were kept in larger tanks in small social groups, with a wide variety of colorful toys and exercise equipment that changed daily.    Mice from both groups were encouraged to exercise which scientists know causes the brain to produce new neurons – and the mice in both groups did, indeed, produce new neurons in their brains. 

Over time, the neurons in the un-enriched mice seemed to just fade away, but the mice who were kept stimulated by their environment?  Their brains formed new neural pathways that included the new neurons –  making the neurons part of their neural network, so that the brains in these mice actually grew.

In another part of the study, the same environments were given to mice who were genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s-like symptoms.  When the gene was activated, the mice would start to lose neurons, their brains would shrink,  they’d begin to forget things they’d been trained to do (like running certain familiar maze patterns) and they’d have trouble learning anything new.

When the researchers put the Alzheimer’s mice into the enriched cages, where they were exposed to new and novel stimulations every day, they started to be able to learn new things, again.  Their long term memory also improved, and they could once again remember old familiar tricks and maze patterns they seemed to have forgotten.

What’s It Mean?

Well, humans aren’t mice, and real Alzheimer’s isn’t exactly the same as the artificial genetic version created in the lab, so the results don’t directly apply.  Still,  the study suggests several interesting things about the positive impact of regularly exposing ourselves to new and different experiences and environments for brain health.

So yes, climbing into the RV to explore the highways and byways is more than just fun, it’s an excellent way to enrich your environment and maintain brain fitness. It encourages the growth of new neural pathways and may help maintain or even regain memory and cognitive functions.   Head on down Route 66 and explore;  who knows, maybe you’ll see a few enriched mice along the way!

Entry filed under: Be Mentally Active. Tags: , , , , .

10 Simple Steps to a Healthier Brain "Give Thanks For Loved Ones" and Win a $2500 Brain Fitness System from Dakim

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


About This Blog


A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness

Feeds

Categories

Dakim Brain Fitness Twitter


%d bloggers like this: