Just a reasonable amount of mental stimulation can be extremely helpful in keeping away Alzheimer’s disease. This revelation was made by a group of researchers who developed
Researchers at the University of California-Irvine studied hundreds of mice changed to make them develop abnormalities known as plaques and tangles in brain tissue that are considered hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease in people.
Writing on Tuesday in the Journal of Neuroscience, they said periodic learning sessions – swimming in a tub of water until finding a submerged platform to stand on – slowed the development in the mice of those two abnormalities.
“The remarkable thing was that just by learning infrequently, they still had a very dramatic effect on the Alzheimer’s disease pathology,” said Kim Green, one of the researchers.
“So it suggests that in humans, if you learn more and more and more, it’s going to have a huge, beneficial effect,” Green maintained.
The findings give way to yet another ides that’s also taking the face of another research that also has emerged in other research – that exercising one’s mind is important to warding off Alzheimer’s disease, the degenerative brain malady that is the most common form of dementia among the elderly.
Green added that other studies have found that more highly educated people are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than people with less education.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or senile dementia of Alzheimer’s type is a neurodegenerative disease which results in a loss of mental functions (dementia) due to the deterioration of brain tissue. Its exact etiology (cause) is still unknown, but environmental as well as genetic factors are thought to contribute. There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, which gradually destroys a person’s memory and ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate and carry out daily activities. As the disease advances, it kills cells elsewhere in the brain. Eventually, if the patient has no other serious illness, the loss of brain function will prove fatal.
“What we have shown is that by learning, by stimulating your mind, you’re able to protect against the development of the pathologies associated with the disease,” Green continued.
According to Green, “Crossword puzzles, reading books, learning a new language — anything you can do to stimulate the brain is going to be beneficial, we think.”
Green said the mice were given “a very mild learning experience” — essentially figuring out a maze but in the water — for a week at a time every three months. The sessions were four times daily for a week at 2, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18 months of age.
The mice that performed the task experienced slower development of the protein beta amyloid clumping in the brain and forming plaques, gooey buildup that accumulates outside nerve cells, the study found.
These mice also experienced a slower accumulation of another protein in the brain, hyperphosphorylated-tau, which can lead to the formation of neurofibrillary tangles — twisted fibers in brain cells.
According to Green, the researchers are looking into whether more frequent and intensive learning sessions might provide bigger and longer-lasting benefits.