Study Mimic Positive Effect of Physical Activity, Improves Mental ability in Mice with Alzheimer's

A new study shows that treating Alzheimer's disease through physical activity may actually improve the functioning of mice with Alzheimer's symptoms by imitating the processes that occur in their brains during physical exertion

a picture with mice glasses and a microscope

What do we know about the Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative disease of the brain that affects most people aged 65 and over. 

It is expressed, among other things, in loss of memory and problems in daily functioning and ultimately leads to death. 
One of the most prominent features of the disease is the appearance of protein deposits in brain cells, called plaques. 

To date, it is not known whether the plaque buildup is a cause of the disease or its symptom. The scientific community is of the opinion that the plaques are poisonous to the cells and kill them, so that if we delay their formation we can delay the progression of the disease. 

But so far all clinical attempts to delay the formation of plaques or dismantle them have failed. Therefore, more and more researchers are currently seeking answers in other aspects of the disease.

For a long time we thought that in the adult brain, no new neurons were created and that the ones we were born with would serve us all our lives. 

Thus, if a nerve cell dies or is damaged during our lifetime, there will be no new cell to take its place. But since it turned out to be inaccurate. In certain regions of the brain, like the hippocampus, neuronal regeneration was observed in different animals. 

It is quite possible that stem cells develop into new neurons in the adult human brain as well.

In Alzheimer's patients, the hippocampus is the first brain structure to be damaged and its cells are destroyed, probably before the appearance of plaques and other known symptoms. 

This injury is probably responsible for many of the behavioral changes that occur later in the disease, such as memory loss, confusion and disorientation.

Physical and mental fitness

It has been known for a long time that physical activity increases the rate of cell renewal in the hippocampus and also improves mental abilities in other ways. 

Findings from the past decade have led many scientists to ask whether the positive effect of exercise on the brain can also help protect against Alzheimer's disease. 

A recent study in the journal of Science argues that yes, and even tries to explain how it happens.
The researchers looked at mice genetically engineered to show Alzheimer-like symptoms. In those who had been practicing jogging, the researchers saw increased regeneration of hippocampal neurons, and their symptoms were reduced: they remembered better, learned faster, and exhibited better mental abilities than untreated mice.

The researchers then wanted to see if they could improve the patients' condition by regenerating neurons only, without exercise. 

As a first step, they induced the regeneration of neurons in the hippocampus of the mice with drugs and genetically engineered virus.

To assess the changes in mental abilities of the mice after the treatment, the researchers conducted behavioral tests that examined the creation of short-term memories, the spatial orientation and storage quality of the information in the brain, as well as the way they analyze their environment. 

Based on these tests, the researchers found that the treatment did improve the mental abilities, memory, and learning skills of the diseased mice, but only if they had undergone physical training before. 

Increasing neural renewal in the brains of Alzheimer's patients is not enough to improve their mental abilities.

What happens when you exercise?

The researchers looked for ways to simulate the processes that occur during physical activity. They focused on the material that is secreted into the brain's intercellular environment during the activity and encourages nerve cells to grow and develop. Its name is brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also known as BDNF.

BDNF is a hippocampal protein that helps maintain existing neurons and promotes the development of new neurons. 

The researchers found that only when mice are given the regenerative therapy and the BDNF levels are improved, they can improve their functioning in the tests, even without actual physical activity. 

This is a first step towards understanding how exercise improves mental abilities, More importantly, it teaches us how to operate this mechanism artificially.

The hope is that in the future we can use these findings to develop a treatment that will improve the functioning of people with Alzheimer's disease. 

However, it should be remembered that mice are not human and we have often encountered treatments that have worked on animals but have failed clinical trials in humans. 

And of course, we have a long way to go before we truly understand the processes of brain cell regeneration and their connection to physical fitness.

Always consult a doctor.