Regular Exercise May Prevent Brain Damage Caused by Alzheimer's Disease

Exercising regularly is linked to preventing brain damage that is connected to neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer's disease.

Prior studies have shown that regular exercise can help repair damage after brain injuries, but this most recent study has found that exercising regularly is linked to preventing brain damage that is connected to neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

This study was performed at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the United States.

Professor Jean Harry, lead researcher of the study, stated that "exercise allows the brain to rapidly produce chemicals that prevent damaging inflammation. This could help us develop a therapeutic approach for early intervention in preventing damage to the brain."

According to the findings of this research, exercise performed prior to the onset of damage alters the environment the brain inhabits, effecting how the neurons are protected from severe damage.

The study utilized an experimental mouse model of brain damage and exposed the mice involved to a chemical that destroyed the hippocampus, which controls learning and memory.

They found that mice that were exercised habitually before they were exposed to the chemical manufactured an “immune messenger” known as interleukin-6 in the brain.

They observed that interleukin-6 reduced the harmful inflammatory reaction to the damage the chemical caused, which prevented some of the loss of function that is usually observed in such cases.

Previous pharmacological therapies aiming to achieve this decrease in inflammation and cognitive decline in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease have not experienced the same level of success as this study.

This research will aid in the comprehension of the role exercise plays in the human mind, and may prove to be useful in many conditions, including neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.

Dr. Ruth Barrientos from the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado reported that this experiment "reveals an alternative pathway by which voluntary physical exercise may protect hippocampal neurons.”

“The study on the role of exercise as a therapeutic intervention will undoubtedly get a workout in the years to come,” continued Barrientos. “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."

These findings were published in the August issue of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.