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Name: Simon Quellen Field
Location: Los Gatos, California, United States

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Building a better brain

There is a class of proteins in the brain called neurotrophic factors.

Two of them are particularly interesting to me at the moment. They are GDNF and BDNF. What interests me about them today is that they are produced in the body as a result of exercise, such as walking for an hour a day.

The effects of BDNF and exercise are an increase in brain cells, and an increase in the branching of the brain cells that contribute to brain function and memory.

One researcher, Carl Cotman, refers to BDNF as "brain fertilizer". Rats and mice that are allowed to exercise as much as they like perform much better on memory tests than sedentary rats and mice, and their brains show much higher levels of connectivity.

The other protein, GDNF, protects brains from Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

So why am I interested in these proteins today? Thursday is the day of the Google Weekly Walk. A bunch of us Googlers meet in the building 42 lobby at 3:00 pm, and then take an hour long walk around the lake by the golf course.

It's a beautiful walk by the stream and the little lake, and you get to talk to very smart people about just about anything, people who you might not otherwise have any occasion to talk to.

And you build a better brain at the same time...


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