Western University is launching a study to discover exactly how exercise benefits the brain.
They're inviting people to participate by playing video games
which will help researchers understand the connection between physical activity and mental well-being.
Professor and neuroscientist Adrian Owen, who is leading the study, said while it's a common belief that a fit body and brain are linked, there remains plenty of mystery around exactly how the two are connected.
The study won't happen in a controlled group.
Instead, participants will be asked to register and log on to the study's online portal.
They'll be asked some basic fitness questions, then have their cognitiion tested by playing what Owen calls "highly immersive video games."
He doesn't want to give out more detail about exaclty which games will be played, for fear people might try them, impacting the outcome of the study.
However, he does promise the study will be enjoyable for those who agree to take part in the study that will probe how physical health can affect mental health.
"Does it depend on how much exercise you do or what kind of exercise you do?" he asked.
"The more people we get the more precise scientific questions we can address based on the data."
Owen said those who participate will be able to see their results and learn how playing games affects their overall mental acuity.
"People really want the results," said Owen.
"They want to know how lifestyle interventions like exercise and video gaming are actually affecting their brains.
And on this occasion we're going to feed back to people information about their own brains."
A key answer Owen is pursuing with the study:
Which exercises are the most beneficial for the brain?
He's also keen to see if the data can bring some clarity about how exercise benefits the brain of a younger person versus someone middle-aged or older.
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Does brain training work?
Owen said there isn't agreement among scientists about the cognitive benefits of playing games or solving puzzles.
That hasn't stopped the development of a large industry aimed at selling subscriptions to websites that boast beneficial brain training.
He said his research has questioned the benefits of online brain training, and he's hoping his story will be able to lay out what actually works and why.
Owen led a previous study of 11,000 people, published in the journal Nature, showing that computerized brain training games did not improve cognitive function.
This new study is different in that participants now play highly immersive video games.
"This will offer a series of fun games and it will test things like your memory, your concentration, your ability to solve simple problems
with all that information we're going to try to understand better the relationship between physical activity and exercise, video game playing and cognitive function."
The study launched on Jan. 11, and a day later, more than 700 people signed up.
Owen said it's proof that people have a keen interest in brain health and learn anything they can about how to enhance it.
"I think this is something they're really going to enjoy doing," he said.
Results of the findings will be shared at this year's Manchester Science Festival in October.
The opinions shared in the GymNation blog articles are solely those of the respective authors and may not represent the perspectives of GymNation or any member of the GymNation team.