To learn better, study while exercising?

I love to study while riding an exercise bike at the YMCA. And I’ve long felt that I was better able to learn Chinese — whether memorizing characters or listening to podcasts — while walking or jogging.

There may now be a stronger scientific basis for my intuition:

Rhythms in the brain that are associated with learning become stronger as the body moves faster, UCLA neurophysicists report in a new study.

The research team, led by professor Mayank Mehta, used specialized microelectrodes to monitor an electrical signal known as the gamma rhythm in the brains of mice. This signal is typically produced in a brain region called the hippocampus, which is critical for learning and memory, during periods of concentration and learning.

The researchers found that the strength of the gamma rhythm grew substantially as running speed increased…

“The gamma rhythm is known to be controlled by attention and learning, but we find it is also governed by how fast you are running,” said Mehta, an associate professor of physics and astronomy, neurology, and neurobiology and the senior author of the study. “This research provides an interesting link between the world of learning and the world of speed.”

…The gamma rhythm, a fast signal that occurs while concentrating or learning, gradually grew stronger as the mice moved faster.

“It is rare to find a relationship that is so clear,” Chen said.

It’s hardly conclusive, but I’m a believer because I’ve long believed that studying while exercising enhanced my learning ability.

Posted by James on Friday, July 08, 2011