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Exercise slows development of Alzheimer's-like brain changes in mice, new study finds

Physical activity appears to inhibit Alzheimer's-like brain changes in mice, slowing the development of a key feature of the disease, according to a new study. The research demonstrated that long-term physical activity enhanced the learning ability of mice and decreased the level of plaque-forming beta-amyloid protein fragments--a hallmark characteristic of Alzheimer's disease (AD)--in their brains.

A number of population-based studies suggest that lifestyle interventions may help to slow the onset and progression of AD. Because of these studies, scientists are seeking to find out if and how physically or cognitively stimulating activity might delay the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease. In this study, scientists have now shown in an animal model system that one simple behavioral intervention--exercise--could delay, or even prevent, development of AD-like pathology by decreasing beta-amyloid levels.

Results of this study, conducted by Paul A. Adlard, Ph.D., Carl W. Cotman, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of California, Irvine, are published in the April 27, 2005, issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The research was funded in part by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Additional funding was provided by the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.

To directly test the possibility that exercise (in the form of voluntary running) may reduce the cognitive decline and brain pathology that characterizes AD, the study utilized a transgenic mouse model of AD rather than normal mice. The transgenic mice begin to develop AD-like amyloid plaques at around 3 months of age. Initially, young mice (6 weeks or 1 month of age) were placed in cages with or without running wheels for periods of either 1 month or 5 months, respectively. Mice with access to running wheels had the opportunity to exercise any time, while those without the wh
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Contact: Susan Farrer
301-496-1752
NIH/National Institute on Aging
26-Apr-2005


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