How mTOR Modulates Muscle Memory

Scientists in China have identified a molecular pathway that links exercise and improved motor functions.

AsianScientist (Jul. 24, 2019) – In a study published in Science Advances, researchers in China reveal the molecular pathway by which repetitive exercise induces improved learning of motor skills.

Muscle memory is gained through frequent practice, and many athletes can attest to this. However, the scientific basis of muscle memory is not fully understood.

In the present study, scientists led by Associate Professor Zhang Li at Jinan University, China, discovered that a protein called mammalian target of rapamycin, or mTOR, is crucial for the development of muscle memory.

“The mTOR pathway is already known to be involved in the learning and memory process. There are also reports indicating mTOR activation inside the brain after exercise training,” Zhang said. “However, our study, for the first time, provides direct in vivo evidence that exercise-activated mTOR is necessary for enhanced spinogenesis and neural plasticity.”

To come to this conclusion, Zhang’s team exercised mice on treadmills for an hour a day for three weeks. Thereafter, the researchers compared the brains of these mice to a control group that had not been made to exercise. They observed significantly more spinogenesis and stronger neural connections in the motor cortex of mice that had exercised. The findings suggest that mTOR is a critical factor in growing neural spines and sustaining the brain’s capacity to make new connections and continue to grow.

“Our results identify one critical intracellular pathway for the exercise mediation of cognitive functions, and address the long-standing question of the role of mTOR underlying structural and functional adaptations of neural networks in response to exercise,” Zhang said. “We believe that a comprehensive understanding of the mTOR pathway can provide us with objective targets and biomarkers for evaluating exercise efficiency.”

The team’s ultimate goal is to develop physical training-based interventions for cognitive deficits in humans.

The article can be found at: Chen et al. (2019) Exercise Training Improves Motor Skill Learning via Selective Activation of mTORr.


Source: Jinan University; Photo: Pexels.
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