Scientists note that the viscoelasticity of the hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory processes, may be the answer to the linkage between fitness and memory.

Psychology professor Aron Barbey, along with a team of researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at Illinois, used a specialized MRI technique to measure the structural integrity of the hippocampus in healthy young adults and correlated it with their performances on fitness and memory tests.

They note that viscoelasticity was correlated with fitness and memory performance more than just the size of the hippocampus.

“Using a new tool to examine the integrity of the hippocampus in healthy young adults could tell us more about how this region functions and how to predict decline for early intervention,” Barbey says, in a media release from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “By the time we look at diseases states, it’s often too late.”

The study, published in the journal NeuroImage, found that those who performed better on the fitness test tended to also perform better on the memory task. But by adding the information on the structure of the hippocampus, the researchers were able to find a possible pathway for the link. They found that the subjects with higher fitness levels also had more elastic tissue in the hippocampus. The tissue structure, in turn, was associated with memory.

“We found that when the hippocampus is more elastic, memory is better,” states study co-author Curtis Johnson, a former graduate researcher at the Beckman Institute who is now a professor at the University of Delaware. “When the hippocampus is more viscous, memory is worse.”

[Source(s): University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Science Daily]