For the past few years, the standard line in the exercise-brain development world has been that cardio is the way to go. Experiments on rodents have shown conclusively that aerobic exercise stimulates neurogenesis in the brain. Dr. John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary Science of Exercise and the Brain, has been the leading advocate for cardio as a way to improve brain function. But he always cautioned that further research into other forms of exercise was necessary. "We know that cardio works, but that's just because it's easier to test. It's kind of hard to get rats to lift weights," he pointed out. Well, someone has found a way to do it. Not lift weights exactly, but work their bodies against resistance. You can tie weights to their tails and have them climb, or you can tighten up the friction on their running wheels. Either way, these rodents have to work against resistance. And, not only do they build muscle mass, they also increase neurogenesis. This is an incredibly exciting finding. Chance are, we are going to discover that all types of physical exertion build the nervous system: the key ingredient will turn out to be raw physical effort. For the full story on the latest findings, see Gretchen Reynolds' recent piece in the New York Times

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