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Mighty muscles may stave off depression

Exercise blocks brain toxin brought on by stress, study in mice shows

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1:11pm, September 25, 2014
two runners on a path

STRENGTH RULES  Exercised muscles may filter harmful substances from the brain, a study in mice suggests.

A powerful body can protect the brain, a new study suggests. Toned muscles filter a toxin from the brain and keep depression at bay, researchers report in the Sept. 25 Cell.

By discovering a previously unknown link between muscles and brain in mice, the results provide compelling evidence for the healing power of exercise, says psychiatrist Andrew Miller of Emory University in Atlanta. “This paper really emphasizes ‘strong body, strong mind.’” The finding also hints at new ways to treat brain disorders, he says.

Researchers have known that in response to a good workout, muscles produce a compound called PGC-1 alpha 1, which is a general do-gooder around the body. The compound prompts the body to make more blood vessels and mitochondria, for instance. The new study, which includes tests involving a small number of people, shows that PGC-1 alpha 1’s rejuvenating effects extend to the brain.

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