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Running Marathons Shrinks The Brain

haidut

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Not that this is any surprise to the forum readers, but I found it quite alarming that the brain shrinks in a such a short amount of time even though the study claims that the brain recovers within 6 months after the event. What I found also interesting is the explanation for the shrinkage - the dull experience of running monotonously and seeing the same scenery over and over again. So, another example that routine/repetition literally kills your brain.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn ... =hootsuite

"...A runner’s joints aren’t the only parts of their body affected. Earlier analyses of the same runners revealed that their brains seemed to temporarily shrink in size by 6 per cent over the course of the race. The loss may simply be the result of extreme fatigue and undernourishment, but Schütz thinks it could be caused by lack of stimulation. One of the four brain regions that seems to be particularly affected is known to be involved in visual processing. That area may have been massively under-stimulated by 64 days of viewing little other than roads, he says. Others have suggested that athletes’ brains may reorganise themselves to divert energy to regions involved in motivation. “It is hard to explain what’s going on,” says Schütz. “But we do see total recovery after six months.”

Regionally accentuated reversible brain grey matter reduction in ultra marathon runners detected by voxel-based morphometry - PubMed
Substantial and reversible brain gray matter reduction but no acute brain lesions in ultramarathon runners: experience from the TransEurope-FootRace Project - PubMed

"...Physiological brain volume reduction during aging is less than 0.2% per year. Therefore a volume reduction of about 6% during the 2 months of extreme running appears to be substantial. The reconstitution in global volume measures after 8 months shows the process to be reversible. As possible mechanisms we discuss loss of protein, hypercortisolism and hyponatremia to account for both substantiality and reversibility of gray matter volume reductions. Reversible brain volume reduction during an ultramarathon suggests that extreme running might serve as a model to investigate possible mechanisms of transient brain volume changes. However, despite massive metabolic load, we found no new lesions in trained athletes participating in a multistage ultramarathon."
 
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Hugh Johnson

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Interestingly, most research on exercise shows larger brain volume.

Anecdotally, when I did cardio years ago I would pretty much shut down mentally and perceive very little of what went on around me. It felt like energy saving.
 

haidut

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Hugh Johnson said:
post 113713 Interestingly, most research on exercise shows larger brain volume.

Anecdotally, when I did cardio years ago I would pretty much shut down mentally and perceive very little of what went on around me. It felt like energy saving.

I think if you can run for a while on glycogen and manage to not hyperventilate then running could be good. Maybe that's why only short sessions were found to be beneficial. Long running raises central serotonin "better" than SSRI.
 
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paymanz

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ray peat also said in a radio program that workout under lactic acid threshold is ok.
 

Hugh Johnson

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haidut said:
post 113717
Hugh Johnson said:
post 113713 Interestingly, most research on exercise shows larger brain volume.

Anecdotally, when I did cardio years ago I would pretty much shut down mentally and perceive very little of what went on around me. It felt like energy saving.

I think if you can run for a while on glycogen and manage to not hyperventilate then running could be good. Maybe that's why only short sessions were found to be beneficial. Long running raises central serotonin "better" than SSRI.
I was unclear, sorry. It's things like this usually. Think walking or Tai Chi with elderly participants. Marathon running does seem pretty dangerous.

http://m.pnas.org/content/108/7/3017.full

This starts with ten minute walks.
 
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Uselis

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Very interesting read, thanks!

I wonder if living your life not as fully as you would love to and following same patterns over and over again counts as ''running marathon'' also.
 

barefooter

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"The London taxi drivers whose hippocampus grows as they learn the locations of the streets are very good examples of the processes described by Meerson, Anokhin, and Lamarck, in which the use of an organ in meeting a need contributes to the development of that organ. The balance between growth and regression is shifted during adaptive behavior." --Ray Peat
from http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/ad ... ance.shtml

Is the brain shrinking from a stress response, or simply a lack of stimulation and new patterns to perceive? Maybe, training the brain isn't so different from training muscles, in that providing new challenges to overcome promotes growth, while monotony causes atrophy.
 

aguilaroja

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haidut said:
post 113690 ... I found it quite alarming that the brain shrinks in a such a short amount of time even though the study claims that the brain recovers within 6 months after the event. What I found also interesting is the explanation for the shrinkage - the dull experience of running monotonously and seeing the same scenery over and over again. ...

An excellent find.

The discussion is about ultra-marathons, rather than "merely" marathons. This exercise is loooong. The particular one studied is "the Trans Europe Foot Race, covering 4500 kilometres from the south of Italy to Norway in 64 days. This race equates to around 100 marathons, with no rest days..."

There certainly may be monotony and under-stimulation which are not life promoting. I have met ultra-marathoners. The ones I met were consistently depleted, and, it could be said, single-minded. It did not take a Peat-y observer to see it.

From a Peat-y perspective, one aspect is huge prolonged lactic acid overload.

The popular article doesn't describe what is observed about the brain shrinkage–maybe the ventricles became smaller. Maybe the brain shrinkage says something about metabolic water and the cerebrospinal fluid. Using fluid intake to compensate for water loss may only partially restore things. That is, a fully functioning CSF may require a high metabolic state.
 
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haidut

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aguilaroja said:
post 113805
haidut said:
post 113690 ... I found it quite alarming that the brain shrinks in a such a short amount of time even though the study claims that the brain recovers within 6 months after the event. What I found also interesting is the explanation for the shrinkage - the dull experience of running monotonously and seeing the same scenery over and over again. ...

An excellent find.

The discussion is about ultra-marathons, rather than "merely" marathons. This exercise is loooong. The particular one studied is "the Trans Europe Foot Race, covering 4500 kilometres from the south of Italy to Norway in 64 days. This race equates to around 100 marathons, with no rest days..."

There certainly may be monotony and under-stimulation which are not life promoting. I have met ultra-marathoners. The ones I met were consistently depleted, and, it could be said, single-minded. It did not take a Peat-y observer to see it.

From a Peat-y perspective, one aspect is huge prolonged lactic acid overload.

The popular article doesn't describe what is observed about the brain shrinkage–maybe the ventricles became smaller. Maybe the brain shrinkage says something about metabolic water and the cerebrospinal fluid. Using fluid intake to compensate for water loss may only partially restore things. That is, a fully functioning CSF may require a high metabolic state.

I updated the original post with the actual studies. The loss was in the form of grey matter as the first study shows. The second one talks about the causes. It seems the direct agent of brain matter loss is the usual suspect - cortisol - coupled with hyponatremia.
 
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sladerunner69

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Ive read that any sort of fat loss could shrink the brain because it is considerred fatty tissue by the body although I am sure it is mroe discerning than that, but will use mdoerate amounts of brain tissue when in starvation mode
 

smith

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What are the most effective methods of increasing cerebrospinal fluid production?
 

johnwester130

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habits, routine, repetition, inflexible, robotic behaviour, fixed smiles, and depression, is absolutely the serotonin - autistic behaviour ray peat talks about

It is the opposite of living a fulfilling life
 

AnonE

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Really cool article, now I can say with some authority that running is literally stupid :P

Related question: does anyone know of a connection between brain growth/shrinkage and skull growth? Could it be the case that part of a brain getting larger might trigger pressure "pushing out" on the skull, causing it to expand? Or perhaps through some other mechanism?

This would be really interesting because then it would imply certain things about hair loss implying different brain and skull shapes.
 
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jb116

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Really cool article, now I can say with some authority that running is literally stupid :P

Related question: does anyone know of a connection between brain growth/shrinkage and skull growth? Could it be the case that part of a brain getting larger might trigger pressure "pushing out" on the skull, causing it to expand? Or perhaps through some other mechanism?

This would be really interesting because then it would imply certain things about hair loss implying different brain and skull shapes.
AnonE my logic is that stress including running increases cortisol which shrinks the brain (and testes/gonads too) but also there is a surge of growth hormone which Peat has talked about becoming dominant with every move away from oxidative metabolism. That would explain the growing cranium that I notice at least especially after 40 yrs of age. A good example is Sylvester Stallone. But he's a more extreme example tentionally using HGH. I'm willing to bet the shifting and inappropriate skull growth destroys hair follicles.
 

Owen B

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I'm sure that cortisol plays a big role here but the underlying problem with the huge energetic loads placed on the body during sustained endurance training is the creation of immobility/freeze responses.

Freeze responses are non-adaptive parasympathetic reactions that massively retard oxidative metabolism. The body reads the intense exhaustion as a total loss of sympathetic system (energy expenditure) options and reverts to a primitive conservation strategy that rapidly slows the metabolism. It's a perilous feigned death strategy, adaptive in reptiles and mammals (sometimes) but disastrous in humans.

The main chemical correlates are endogenous opiates, enkephalins. It's just like "wooden chest syndrome" in people who OD on painkillers and heroin and go into respiratory arrest.

Another background factor I picked up in an article on functionalperformancesystems is about the effect of prolonged endurance training on the the GI tract. It forces fluids away from the intestinal walls and induces bacterial permeability.

Also, I'm pretty sure I saw an article once stating that creatine does the same thing: mimics the effect of prolonged, intense exercise on the GI tract.
 

haidut

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@haidut How short was considered a "short session" of running? Thank you.

It would depend on your glycogen stores, but I would say 10min-15min is what most people can do without triggering lactic acid buildup and FFA elevation.
 

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