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Activity May Protect Your Brain From Alzheimer's

A tale of the active mouse and the couch potato mouse

TUESDAY, May 21, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- An active and challenging life may protect your brain from Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.

American and German scientists say they found that older mice who lived in an enriched setting where they were physically and mentally challenged grew and kept a higher number of new brain nerve cells linked to memory function.

That was true even if this kind of lifestyle began when the mice were in middle age, says the study published in tomorrow's issue of the journal Annals of Neurology.

Two groups of mice were housed in different ways. One group was in a small, bare cage shared with a few other mice. The other group of mice lived in a large cage with many other mice and had access to plastic tunnels, a running wheel and other objects.

The mice lived this way between the ages of 10 and 20 months, which is middle-to-old age for mice. At the end of the 10-month experiment, the old mice in the enriched setting were generating five times as many new hippocampal nerve cells (brain cells associated with cognitive skill and memory) as their counterparts in the bare cage.

While the scientists are cautious about applying these findings to humans, they do note that previous studies show people who are physically and mentally active in middle age and old age are less susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases.

More information

The association between longevity and exercise is well-established. This article from the Health Gazette gives excellent recaps and references on some of the more important research that's been done.

SOURCE: May 22, 2002, Annals of Neurology
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