Sitting in front of a computer for hours on end can actually shrink the part of the brain that stores memories in middle-age and older adults, a new study suggests.
Staying sedentary for long periods of time can eventually lead to atrophy of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) which acts as the part of the brain responsible for memories, Live Science reports. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) stated,
Sedentary behavior is a significant predictor of thinning of the MTL and that physical activity, even at high levels, is insufficient to offset the harmful effects of sitting for extended periods.
Previous studies have found links between sedentary behavior and an increase in risks for heart disease, diabetes and early death in middle-aged and senior adults.
The researchers studied 35 people between 45 to 75 years old. They asked the participants questions on their physical activity levels, and about the average number of hours they spent sitting during the previous week.
The team then scanned the brains of the participants using a high-resolution MRI scan in order to get a more detailed look at the media temporal lobes. They used the scans to identify the relationships among the thickness of the MTL, physical activity and sitting behavior. The participants said they spent from 3 to 7 hours in a chair per day, on average.
Regardless of physical activity level, sitting for extended periods of time turned out to be closely linked to thinning in the media temporal lobe. With every hour of sitting daily, there was an obvious drop in brain thickness.
The researchers recommend that “reducing sedentary behavior may be a possible target for interventions designed to improve brain health in people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.” They plan to survey people who sit for longer periods of time daily, in order to establish a cause-and-effect relationship.
The study was published in the Public Library of Science.