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June 2023
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Exercise May Exorcise Radiation Damage

Exercise Improves Brain Function in Rats Treated with Radiation, Say Duke Researchers

Study says exercise may improve brain function after being treated with radiation.

Study says exercise may improve brain function after being treated with radiation.

Ladies and gentlemen, as much as I’ve discussed exercise and its healing power, there’s yet another aspect to it that can’t go unmentioned:  It may reverse the damage that results from radiation treatments.

As has been documented here, I’m not crazy about traditional cancer treatments.  Whether its radiation or chemotherapy, they’re both used to kill as many cancerous cells as possible.  If I were forced to choose one over another, I’d choose radiation, because it’s a more localized treatment (i.e., It’s effective for only certain cancers, and it doesn’t attack as many healthy cells as chemotherapy does).

Nevertheless, radiation does adversely affect healthy cells, particularly brain cells when used for brain cancer.

But researchers from Duke University found that may be a thing of the past after the brains of rats treated with radiation were every bit as good as those rats that weren’t irradiated.

To test their mental mettle, the researchers irradiated one group of mice and provided them with food, water, and a wheel that they could run on and off as they pleased.  The other group of mice was also irradiated, but they had no access to a wheel, only access to their food, water, and other furry friends.

They then tested the rats’ mental ability and agility, letting them loose in a maze that assessed their spatial memory and recognition.  This was used as a sort of guideline for the researchers, helping them to know how quickly they could get through the maze after irradiation treatment.

Throughout the next several weeks, they had the same groups of rats go through the same maze they had at the start of the study, but this time the researchers discovered something most unexpected.  They found that the rats that were irradiated and had opportunity to exercise performed just as well as rats that were never irradiated in the maze.  In other words, their brain function was normal.  They were expecting to find a decline in the irradiated rats’ mental function, but the only rats that showed a progressive decline in brain function were the irradiated rats that didn’t have access to the rat wheel.

The findings led one of the researchers to conclude how “powerful” exercise is and that it can “provide and even restore” mental function after radiation therapy.

More research needs to be done before researchers can say with any definitiveness that exercise provides a similar benefit to humans given whole brain radiation treatment, but the results sure seem promising.  They believe the benefit of exercise on brain function is likely due to the increased flow of blood to the part of the brain responsible for cognitive function (i.e. hippocampus).

Again, these findings may not translate to humans, but this study piggybacks on a separate study performed last year in Germany, which found that exercise improves stem cell growth in the brains of rats affected by radiation.  In that study, the researchers were more inclined to suggest that the findings would translate to humans, saying “irradiation-induced damage in children with brain damage could be reduced if the child under guidance is given stimulating and fun exercise.”


Related Posts

  1. New Study Shows That Cancer Drug Causes Heart Damage in 28 Percent of Patients…
  2. Mind Strong: A Resilient Mind Grounded in Exercise
  3. Exercise Away the Pain
  4. Fighting Shrinkage: Exercise Keeps Brain from Shrinking, Slows Alzheimer’s
  5. Benefits of Exercise and your Life Expectancy

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