Want to Feel Better? Make More Neurotransmitters

by ParentCo. March 02, 2016

If we want to be happy, we're gonna have to exercise. GROAN. Can't we just eat Doritos and watch movies? Nope. Physical exercise helps our brains work optimally, combatting depression and anxiety. According to Richard Maddock, professor in the UC Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and author of a new study, "...vigorous exercise is the most demanding activity the brain encounters, much more intense than calculus or chess but nobody knows what happens with all that energy. Apparently, one of the things it’s doing is making more neurotransmitters." Specifically, exercise increases the production of two common neurotransmitters responsible for chemical messaging within the brain -- glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Researchers measured glutamate and GABA levels in 38 healthy participants before and immediately following a period of sustained vigorous exercise on a stationary bike, reporting that: Significant increases were found in the visual cortex, which processes visual information, and the anterior cingulate cortex, which helps regulate heart rate, some cognitive functions and emotion. The study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, "offers new insights into brain metabolism and why exercise could become an important part of treating depression..." (UC Davis Newsroom). This confirms what many of us already know from experience -- when we exercise, we feel better. And when we feel better, everything feels better -- from our personal health to our relationships with kids and spouses.



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