Bonjour family and friends,
When I first arrived in Paris two weeks ago, I was excited to find so many active Parisians running and biking everywhere! Walking around the Cité Universitaire residential campus, I am often startled by a breathless “Pardon!” (Pardon me!) as a runner passes by on my left. Also, more than 20,000 bikes are available for rent in Paris through Vélib’ for €1.70 per day (visit http://en.velib.paris.fr/How-it-works/Bikes). My Paris bucket list definitely includes trading my metro pass for a bike for at least one day in the upcoming three weeks.
Vélib’ public bicycle sharing system
One of my professors, Dr. Jacob, and our TA, Rachel, lead group runs in parks around Paris. I ran my first half marathon this past March in Atlanta and wanted to continue running and exercising while in Paris. Running is a great opportunity for sightseeing and exploring beautiful, natural spaces such as parks, gardens, and riverbanks.
Rachel and I spreading our wings toward the birdhouse carvings in the tree!
Running also helps work up a healthy appetite…Lucky for me, there’s a boulangerie (bakery) on the corner of each street!
During the hour-long lunch break between my two neuroscience courses, I usually orient myself towards a boulangerie for lunch. Nearly every boulangerie’s Formule Dejeneur (or Lunch Formula) includes a sandwich, drink, and dessert that’s almost too pretty to eat. With so many boulangeries and crêpe stands as far as the eye can see, Paris must be every sugar addict’s heaven on earth. However, such easy access to desserts makes me wonder about the current diabetes rate in France. Also, I wonder in what way physical exercise, such as running and biking, can affect a diabetes patient’s brain. After some online research, I found a few neuroscience explanations to satisfy my curiosities (for now).
Sample lunch formula
Tarte au Citron (Lemon Tart) – Is your mouth watering yet?
First of all, diabetes is a disease in which high blood sugar levels exist over a long period of time. I personally know a few individuals who are pre-diabetic and have to carefully monitor the sugars they consume. Drawing from a research study published today (6/8/2015) in The Lancet, a British medical journal, diabetes occurrence increased 45% from 1990 to 2013 (Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 Collaborators, 2015). In France, 7.2% of adults (20-79 years old) suffer from diabetes. This percentage represented about 3,241,300 diabetes cases last year in 2014 (visit https://www.idf.org/membership/eur/france).
Diabetes, specifically diabetes mellitus, directly relates to neuroscience because this disease decreases brain function and leads to neurodegenerative diseases (Yi, 2015). In a research study hot off the press (5/22/2015), Nunes de Sena et al. investigated the effect of treadmill training on the brain function of diabetic rats. They divided sixty rats into four groups, with exactly fifteen rats in each group.
- Group one included non-trained, healthy rats.
- Group two included trained, healthy rats.
- Group three included non-trained, diabetic rats.
- Group four included trained, diabetic rats.
Based on this experimental break down, half of the rats received a chemical injection (streptozotocin) that led to diabetes over the course of thirty days and symptoms of hyperglycemia and body weight loss throughout the experiment. After thirty days, the exercise (“trained”) groups underwent five weeks of running training on a treadmill apparatus.
Could you imagine seeing this runner training at the gym?
On the day after the last training session, all of the rats participated in a short-term memory test, known as the Novel Object-Recognition Test (NOR). Rats were placed at the center of an open field apparatus (a.k.a. box) and given three minutes to explore their new environment. (This acclimatization period reminds me of the first few days after our arrival in Paris. We also landed in a new environment that we needed to adjust to before beginning coursework.) After the initial three-minute exploration time interval, testing included two five-minute trials. In the first trial (T1), the researchers placed two different objects inside the testing box. In the second trial (T2) one hour later, a new object replaced one of the objects from the first trial. The objects were as different as they could be! They differed in shape, surface, color, contrast, and texture. The researchers recorded the amount of time the rats spent exploring the new object and divided by the amount of time the rats spent exploring both objects, to check for any object preference. In terms of results, both of the exercise groups exhibited a stronger preference for the novel object. Thus, the researchers concluded that treadmill running improved short-term memory performance in both healthy and diabetic rats. I am not entirely convinced, however, based on results from one memory task. In order to establish a stronger connection between running and short-term memory, I think multiple, diverse memory tasks should be carried out. Overall, this paper is significant due to a major strength in the design of the research study: for the first time, researchers used diabetic rats to show that exercise improves performance in a non-spatial memory task. I am highly interested in reading future studies regarding the effects of exercise on other components of brain function in diabetic rats! Hopefully, such studies will contribute to more naturopathic treatments for pre-diabetic and diabetic patients.
With so many picturesque gardens, parks, and the Seine River, Paris provides countless opportunities for running. Even if you have normal blood sugar levels, what are you waiting for? Explore as you run!
Bill F, Foundation MG (2015) Articles Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries, 1990 – 2013 : a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. 6736:1990–2013.
De Senna PN, Xavier LL, Bagatini PB, Saur L, Galland F, Zanotto C, Bernardi C, Nardin P, Gonçalves CA, Achaval M (2015) Physical training improves non-spatial memory, locomotor skills and the blood brain barrier in diabetic rats. Brain Res: 1–8 Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26032744 [Accessed June 7, 2015].
Yi SS (2015) Effects of exercise on brain functions in diabetic animal models. World J Diabetes 6:583–597 Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25987956 [Accessed May 21, 2015].
All images were obtained through a Google image search, besides the image of Rachel and I in the park and the image of the Tarte au Citron.