Eye on the prize

Exercise improves vision as well as elevating the heart rate, research shows

Man on a bike

Mood enhancement, improved sleep, reduced risk of disease. The list of benefits from physical exercise is long, and now researchers believe an optical advantage can be added to the mix.

Researchers at UC Santa Barbara recorded improved vision among 18 study participants riding a stationary bike at low intensity.

UC Santa Barbara post-doctoral researcher, Tom Bullock, told OT that previous research had indicated improved vision among mice during physical activity.

“However, given the vast differences between mouse and primate brains, it is unclear whether these results also apply to the human brain,” he elaborated.

“Our data provides evidence that there may well be a common mechanism,” Dr Bullock emphasised.

During the study, the 18 volunteers each wore a wireless heart rate monitor and a cap containing scalp electrodes. The neural activity prompted by visual stimuli was analysed while the study participants were at rest, as well as during low and high intensity cycling exercise.

Researchers reconstructed tuning curves using a computational algorithm, allowing them to estimate how well large populations of neurons in the visual cortex were representing different stimulus orientations.

The results suggested that the neurons became more sensitive to visual stimuli during low intensity exercise than during high intensity exercise or rest.

Other research planned by the lab includes a study determining how exercise influences visual working memory.

Image credit: Rex Boggs