Exercise May Help Prevent Brain Damage Caused by Alzheimer's Disease
Could help develop approach for early intervention in preventing brain damage; allows brain chemicals to prevent
Aug.15, 2011 – Regular exercise could help prevent brain damage associated with Alzheimer's and other
neurodegenerative diseases, according to research published this month in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
"Exercise allows the brain to rapidly produce chemicals that prevent damaging inflammation", said Professor Jean Harry,
who led the study at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the United States. "This could help us develop a therapeutic
approach for early intervention in preventing damage to the brain."
Previous research has already demonstrated that exercise after brain injury can help the repair mechanisms. This new
study shows that exercise before the onset of damage modifies the brain environment in such a way that the neurons are protected from severe
The study used an experimental model of brain damage, in which mice are exposed to a chemical that destroys the
hippocampus, an area of the brain which controls learning and memory.
Mice that were exercised regularly prior to exposure produced an immune messenger called interleukin-6 in the brain,
which dampens the harmful inflammatory response to this damage, and prevents the loss of function that is usually observed.
Pharmacological therapies to down-regulate inflammation and address cognitive decline in older adults, and those with
Alzheimer's disease, have been less successful.
This research helps understand how exercise could be used to affect the path of many human conditions, such as
neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.
In addition, as a chemical model of neuronal damage was used, it also raises the possibility that exercise could offer
protection against the potentially harmful effects of environmental toxins.
"This elegant series of experiments reveals an alternative pathway by which voluntary physical exercise may protect
hippocampal neurons", said Dr. Ruth Barrientos from the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado.
"The study on the role of exercise as a therapeutic intervention will undoubtedly get a workout in the years to come.
Perhaps the greatest challenge with this line of research will not be more discoveries of compelling evidence of the anti-neuroinflammatory
effects of exercise, but instead, getting humans to exercise voluntarily and regularly."
The research was funded by the Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and
the National Institutes of Health.
The article appears in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Volume 25, Number 6 (August 2011), published by Elsevier.
About Brain, Behavior, and Immunity
Founded in 1987, it is the official journal of the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society (PNIRS). The journal publishes
peer-reviewed basic, experimental, and clinical studies dealing with behavioral, neural, endocrine, and immune system interactions in humans
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