Faculty in the News: Hyunjoon Kong, Professor Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Researchers unearth exercise secrets from a biomolecular soup of synthetic innervated muscle tissue.

It’s no secret that regular exercise is great for the body and the brain. Scientific studies have shown, time and time again, that physical activity has both short and long-term cognitive benefits, from boosting memory and concentration in the hours following a gym sesh, to reducing inflammation and mitigating risk of progressive, degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

New research sheds light on one potential mechanism for exactly how exercise aids in brain health. A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that when muscles contain more nerve cells, and when those muscle-stimulating nerve cells are active, muscle tissue produces a bevy of brain-boosting compounds.

Muscles all around our bodies are connected to the brain through a network of nerve cells that penetrate into the muscle tissue, creating “innervated muscle.” Past studies have shown that strength and resistance training can increase the level of muscle innervation, bolstering that brain-body connection. Other, complementary research has demonstrated links between loss of innervated muscle and organ impairments and cognitive dysfunction. The new work goes one step further, showing that innervated muscle is important for the production and transport of many molecules that support and improve brain function, including proteins, mRNA, and hormones.

Lead author Hyunjoon Kong, a professor of biomolecular engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, told Medical News Today that the study didn’t directly prove that exercise can improve cognitive function, but it did show that exercise enables muscles to maintain the neuron connections necessary for muscles to help the brain.

Read more - INVERSE

Read more - Medical News Today, "Exercise stimulates brain function thanks to its effect on muscles, study suggests."

Read Journal Article, PNAS - "Neuronal innervation regulates the secretion of neurotrophic myokines and exosomes from skeletal muscle"


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