NEW YORK – Exercise does more than keep your heart health. It also boosts brainpower. Researchers recently found that exercise targets a region of the brain within the hippocampus that underlies normal age-related memory decline that begins around age 30 for most adults.

Using an MRI imaging technique developed at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, it was the first-ever observation of the growth of neurons within a living brain.

“No previous research has systematically examined the different regions of the hippocampus and identified which region is most affected by exercise,” says Scott A. Small, the study’s lead author. “I, like many physicians, already encourage my patients to get active, and this adds yet another reason to the long list of reasons why exercise is good for overall health.”

Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the finding builds upon previous research.

“Our next step is to identify the exercise regimen that is most beneficial to improve cognition and reduce normal memory loss so that physicians may be able to prescribe specific types of exercise to improve memory,” says Dr. Small, who is a research scholar at the Columbia University Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain.