There have certainly been a number of people with great intelligence who were also active in sports. For example, Alan Turing, who is known for cracking the Enigma code, was also able to run a marathon in just two hours and 46 minutes. He almost qualified to participate in the 1948 Olympics representing Great Britain.
The secret lies in a single protein
Researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California discovered that a single protein called estrogen-related receptor gamma (ERRy) controls the energy necessary for the functioning of muscles and brains. This protein is responsible for increasing the supply of blood to the muscles. It has also been associated, in studies with mice, for doubling the capacity for running, as well as converting fat into energy with high efficiency.
Additionally, researchers now know that ERRy plays a role in controlling the process of metabolizing sugar in the brain. They found that when neurons were short on supply of ERRy, they did not fire optimally, which could hamper the process of memory.
“This is all about getting energy where it’s needed to ‘the power plants’ in the body,” explained Professor Ronald Evans, director of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California. “The heart and muscles need a surge of energy to carry out exercise and neurons need a surge of energy to form new memories.”
ERRy clearly linked with intelligence
In the study, mice without ERRy were able to maintain movement, balance, and normal vision. However, they were significantly hindered in learning how to swim their way through a water maze. They also showed very weak ability to remember the maze on subsequent testing.
“We assumed that ERRy did the same thing throughout the body,” stated Professor Evans. “But we learned that it’s different in the brain.”
Study findings showed that ERRy activates fat-burning pathways found in the muscles, as well as sugar-burning pathways found throughout the brain.
“What we found is that mice that are missing ERRy are basically very slow learners,” said lead and co-corresponding author Liming Pei, Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine. “Varying levels of ERRy could also be at the root of differences between how individual humans learn.”
“Everyone can learn,” stated Pei. “But some people learn and memorize more efficiently than others, and we now think this could be linked to changes in brain metabolism.”
Future studies are needed
Researchers now believe that possible treatments for learning and attention disorders might be found by continuing to develop a better understanding of the metabolic processes of neurons. It is also conceivable that learning processes may be enhanced by increased levels of ERRy, just as it does by enhancing the function of muscles.
-The Alternative Daily