August 15, 2011
Regular exercise could help prevent brain damage associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, according to new research.
"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 insults.
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.