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Alzheimer’s Disease Brain: Use It or Lose It 

Alzheimer’s disease and recent research: 

alzheimer's diseaseRecent research on the development of Alzheimer's disease has suggested that in order to prevent or inhibit it’s development, you should try to maintain an enriched environment with as many stimulating activities as possible.  The issue of stimulation and Alzheimer's disease was studied at the University of Chicago, where they found mice that lived in "enriched environments" including chew toys, running wheels and tunnels that help keep their brains and bodies active had lower levels of Alzheimer's-associated brain plaques and protein buildup then mice that lived in less stimulating environments.  "This goes back to the old idea of use it or lose it, that using your brain keeps it more active.  It's more common sense than anything, but what we didn't previously appreciate is that it might affect the pathology that is characteristic of Alzheimer's disease," researcher Sangram Sisodia stated. 

Alzheimer’s disease: The research 

The University of Chicago Alzheimer's disease research focused on mice that were genetically engineered to mimic early-onset Alzheimer's disease in humans which included clumps of amyloid proteins around brain cells. Some of the mice were allowed to play in an "enriched environment" while the others were placed in less active, less stimulating environments. 

 

Brain tissue levels of toxic b-amyloid tangles or plaques, which are usually associated with Alzheimer's disease, were markedly lower in mice with more intellectually challenging environments than those playing in the less stimulating environment according to researchers. Analysis of the enzyme and protein expression of the mice living in the enriched environments suggested they may be better equipped than the other group of being able to clear the amyloid peptides usually associated with Alzheimer’s disease out of their brains.  These findings have suggested that enriched environments may act as a protective factor for mice by keeping the amyloid peptide levels low enough to prevent them from clumping up and causing damage. 

These researchers have also suggested that physical activity may also be a factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  The most physically active of the mice also had the largest reductions in the b-amyloid peptides and deposits. Researchers concluded that more studies need to be conducted to provide conclusive information of exactly how  enriched environments benefit these animals. However, in the meantime, it certainly is not a bad idea for aging humans to get more mentally and physically active as a measure to possibly prevent or minimize the effects of Alzheimer's disease.  "It's all very important in keeping the mind active and potentially staving off the effects of old age," Sisodia said. 

Information from Busy Minds May Slow Alzheimer’s  - Yahoo News 

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic  MA Licensed Psychologist   Ph.D. Candidate  (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)

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