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Scientists at University of Oregon Link Running to Sensory Processing

Posted by Amanda Caudill on Fri, Sep 05, 2014

Running has been associated with cardiovascular health and overall physical fitness for decades. Most people know that running can help you lose weight, boost your mood and strengthen your joints, but there is now growing evidence that physical exercise and sensory processing are tightly linked in the brain. Researchers at the University of Oregon, Eugene studied the brainstem circuit in mice while they were running to discover that active movement increases visual perception in mice nearly twofold.

"Previous studies have examined changes in the visual cortex of mice during running. What was unknown was how do running and vision get linked together in the first place?" said Cristopher Niell, a researcher at the University of Oregon, biology professor in the Institute of Neuroscience and the study’s senior author. "We found that running turned up the magnitude in the mouse's visual cortex by about two-fold — the signals were basically twice as strong when the mouse was running.”

As a part of the research process, scientists at the University of Oregon focused on the brain's mesencephalic locomotor region (MLR), which previous studies have shown to govern forms of physical activity. They believed the neural pathways that begin in the MLR might send a signal down the spinal chord to initiate the physical activity while at the same time sending a signal up to the cortex to signal a visual response. The researchers concluded that the MLR does lead to both running and increased visual perception, even though these two effects are conveyed via different pathways.



researchers at the University of Oregon

Dr. Niel

Image courtesy of U. Oregon


According to Runner’s World, there are a number of other, lesser-known health benefits to physical activity such as running. Running helps those who practice it stay mentally sharper as they get older. A December 2012 study published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review says that mental activity such as task switching, selective attention, and working memory declines much more slowly in people who exercise regularly. Running also reduces your risk of cancer and can add years to your life.

Clearly, the benefits of running are an area of interest to researchers studying how exercise can improve overall health and well-being. Although the findings are promising, more work on this study involving visual perception and running is needed by scientists at the University of Oregon. As it stands, it is unclear whether humans experience heightened visual perception while exercising. The study does, however, say that there is growing evidence that sensory processing and physical activities such as running are tightly connected as processes in the brain.

Studies such as this require an active research marketplace where funding can support the goals of scientists at the University of Oregon. In FY 2010-2011, the University of Oregon, Eugene University Venture Development Fund had $124.7 million in sponsored expenditures, up 7.8% over FY10. So far in 2014, the National Institutes of Health has also given the University of Oregon $23.1 million in funding.

If you would like to market your life science solutions to researchers at the University of Oregon conducting studies similar to this one, Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. invites you to exhibit at theBioResearch Product Faire™ Event at the University of Oregon on September 9th, 2014. For more nationwide life science marketing events, see the 2014 calendar of events. More life science funding information on the University of Oregon, Eugene as well as vendor show information is available when you click on the button below. 


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Tags: 2014, UOr, University of Oregon Eugene, Neuroscience, Eugene, NIH funding

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