New, cutting edge research suggests neurological health depends on signals sent to the brain by large muscles in the legs, as well as messages sent from the brain to the muscles. This research, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, could change the basic understanding of the brain and nervous system and provide new clues about why people with certain neurological conditions like motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal muscular atrophy, and others often experience a rapid decline once their mobility becomes limited.
The mouse study was conducted by researchers from the University of Milan in Italy. It involved one group of mice that was restricted from using their back legs, but not their front legs, for 28 days, and a control group that was permitted to roam normally. At the end of the study period, the researchers examined the sub-ventricular area of the brain, which maintains nerve cell health and produces neurons.
They discovered that restricting physical activity in mice decreased the number of neural stem cells by 70 percent compared to the control group, and that neurons and specialized nerve cells did not mature properly when leg movement was limited. According to the Italian researchers, this study suggests that physical activity improves the body’s ability to produce new nerve cells.