Can running help repair the brain?

The brain is a very complex structure that helps us carry out simple tasks everyday. It controls everything from your thoughts and emotions to your childhood memories. The brain is really an amazing structure and when damaged serious effects can occur. Brain damage is a very serious thing and if the situation is severe enough the damage done may be irreversible. At this point most people just have to learn to live with this damage but after this promising study that was done by researchers at the University of Ottawa maybe that will change.

This study done with lab rats found that a specific molecule, called VGF, triggered by running may help repair certain types of brain damage.

Null Hypothesis: Running does nothing to repair brain damage.

Hypothesis: Running produces VGF that repairs brain damage.

brain-damage-clipart-1photo source

This study was done in the Ottawa hospital and was initially observed while studying mice that were genetically modified to have a smaller cerebellum. Unfortunately, these mice were only living for an average of 25-40 days while an average mice’s life is around 1-2 years. The researchers found that if the mice were given the chance to run on a wheel they seemed to live significantly longer. Their life expectancy went from 25-45 days all the way up to 12 months. They also noticed that the running mice developed better balance but if exercise was stopped these positive effects would begin to fade and their life expectancy would go back down.

How is this happening?

After observing the differences in these two mice’s brains the researches found that the running mice gained more of their cerebellum back than the mice in the control group. This change is due to the molecule VGF that is released during exercise. To make sure it was the VGF causing the effect the researchers injected VGF into the bloodstream of the mice that did not run and noticed the damaged cells become stronger.


The results found seem to be leaning away from the null hypothesis and towards the positive hypothesis, but nothing can be proven at this point. Although the results from this study look very promising, there is still a lot more that needs to be done with this research. The results found were only from one isolated experimental study and could be due to a number of factors. In this case reverse causation can be ruled out but third variables cannot. There are many possible variables that could have created this outcome. Another possibility that cannot be looked over is the chance that the results are a false positive. False positives are possible in every study and must be considered before drawing a conclusion. Overall there definitely needs to be more studies done on this recent find. Although the results look good we cannot jump to conclusions or be biased in any way, these tests were only done on mice and could have a different effect on humans.

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1 thought on “Can running help repair the brain?

  1. Patrick Ryan

    That’s an interesting topic to talk about. I hope somewhere in the future they can transition to a new source that could give significant data, proving that running has a real positive effect on the brain no matter the situation. I like how you used terms we have learned in class like, null hypothesis and hypothesis. That shows you can relate outside topics to what you learn in class. Good Job

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