activity seems to lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease and
certain other neurological disorders, according to researchers
in the United States and Germany.
study suggests that, in mice, we can reduce the effects of
aging on the brain with a sustained active and challenging
life, even if this stimulation is only begun in middle age,"
said the study's lead author, Dr. Gerd Kemperman.
linked two distinct lines of research. One focused on people
who are active in their middle to later years, whether physically
or intellectually, where researchers have found they are less
susceptible to cognitive decline or diseases such as Alzheimer's.
focuseds on the hippocampus -- a structure in the brain critical
to normal cognitive function and storing new memories. It
is one of few areas in the brain that generates new nerve
cells in adults.
to determine if the regeneration of nerve cells could be sustained
long-term in middle and later life, and if there were corresponding
effects on mental abilities, researchers followed two groups
of mice for 10 months.
aged 10 to 20 months (middle-to-old age in rodent years),
were housed in either a small bare cage with a few other mice,
or in an enhanced environment, which included a large cage
with running wheel, plastic tunnels and other objects, shared
with many mice.
environment was rearranged from time to time as well.
in the Annals of Neurology, researchers found that mice living
in enriched surroundings were generating five times as many
nerve cells as the mice in the bare environment, showing that
"activity can have a sustained effect, even on older
the same mice also fared significantly better on behavioral
tests. They were able to explore -- and adapt to -- new environments
quicker, and outperformed the other mice in standard learning
said he is hopeful that the results will prove relevant for
humans as well.
will certainly do no harm and most likely benefit people if
they use our results as a motivation to be more active,"
he said. "They might even do something good for the nerve
cells that are involved in learning and memory processes."
of May 26, 2002