6.12.2006

Use It and Don't Lose It: More Evidence
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Researchers report that when mice with Alzheimer's Disease are placed in a mentally stimulating environment, they outperform mice without the disease in an environment that is less challenging.

Scientists at the Byrd Alzheimer's Research Institute in Tampa, Florida completed the research.

If extended to people with the disease, the findigs assert that living a life full of mentally challenging activities can slow and even protect against the development of Alzheimer's disease.

"What we are seeing in this research is that mice having the same characteristics as humans with Alzheimer's are able to perform well, even at the same level as mice without Alzheimer's, if housed in a mentally challenging, cognitively enriched environment. The mental stimulation provided in this environment appears to stymie mental impairment. After months of mental stimulation, it was impossible to differentiate these mice from the behaviorally normal, healthy mice," said Huntington Potter, Ph.D., investigator on the project and chief executive officer of the Byrd Research Institute.

Potter said this successful Alzheimer's mouse experiment will be tested in Alzheimer's patients and that sessions of mentally stimulating activities would be given on a regular basis. It is hoped that such cognitive stimulation will stabilize or even improve the memory function of Alzheimer's patients.

"If individuals with Alzheimer's can benefit from living in a cognitively enriched environment, then these individuals could live fuller, longer and more productive lives," said Potter.

A high level of mental activity throughout life has been suggested to lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease, but it is impossible to assess the preventative potential of environmental enrichment in a controlled clinical study. The research done at the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute tackled this question by using Alzheimer's mice in a well-controlled, blind study. The experiments showed that the Alzheimer's mice living in the enriched environment outperformed those in standard housing when tested at an older age. The treated mice also were behaviorally indistinguishable from the mice without the Alzheimer's disease.

The Byrd Alzheimer's Research Institute is based at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The National Institutes of Health recently designated the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute and USF as Florida's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. Information on the study and helpful information on treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's disease can be found at: http://www.byrdinstitute.org.



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