Saif, researchers receive $400K to explore how exercise may aid cognition
The Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21) will fund “In Vitro Platform for Exploring Muscle-neuron Interactions” with the Rhodes Lab, led by Justin Rhodes, psychology; Sweedler Research Group, led by Jonathan Sweedler, chemistry; and the Saif Lab, led by Taher Saif, mechanical science and engineering.
The purpose of the project is to identify the chemicals released from muscles when they contract. The chemicals enhance neuron communication.
“We have known for decades that regular exercise is crucial for maintaining cognitive health as you age, however we don’t know why,” Rhodes said. “Where are the signals coming from and how do they improve cognitive health? The leading hypothesis is that when muscles contract they release chemicals into the blood which reach the brain and cause new synapses and new neurons to form. However, which chemicals exactly has yet to be determined, which is one of the research areas we are addressing with our efforts.”
“Muscle tissues will be subjected to exercise protocols, and the effect of the exercise on neural connectivity will be monitored,” Saif said. “Thus, the study will reveal a mechanistic link between exercise and neural architecture, offering the first insight on how exercise may improve cognitive health.”
Saif is the Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Professor, and MechSE's Associate Head for Graduate Programs and Research.