Play and Alzheimer’s

Play and exercise reduce Alzheimer’s, especially if you’re a genetically engineered mouse. Mice can be gene-engineered to develop the amyloid build-up typical of Alzheimer’s disease, an extreme loss of mental capacity that stikes some older persons. U. Chicago’s Sam Sisodia led a team in a comparative examination mouse brains from groups of such mice living in either boring or play-oriented environments. He found the play-and-exercise environment greatly reduced the buildup of the amyloid plaques typical of Alzheimer’s. A nice thing about this particular research is in avoiding the chicken-and-egg problem – are people who like exercise and intellectual challenge already less likely to get Alzheimer’s, or does the activity itself have a preventive effect? Because of the young age of the mice and the nature of the experimental setup, the conclusion is that the exercise and cognitive activities cause, rather than simply correlate with, the reduced amyloid build-up. Separate research (C. Lyketsos, Johns Hopkins, to be published in Am. J. Epidemiology) indicates that exercise may reduce Alzheimer’s risk by as much as 50%. So go out and run around and play. (Original article, J. Marx, Science vol. 307, p 1547) (3/15)

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