A study published in the journal Neuron in March, conducted by Dr. Dennis Selkoe of Brigham Women’s Hospital, shows that receiving stimuli from an environment rich in information and new activities for long periods has a positive effect on the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. The most common cause of memory loss among the elderly, is the disease is caused by the accumulation of a protein called beta-amyloid in neurons, which blocks the communication between them and eventually kills them.
In the study, scientists put mice in environments with multiple stimuli and then assessed the anatomical changes in the brain. They found that stimulating environmental activates a via related to adrenaline, which reduces the formation of beta-amyloid in the region of the hypothalamus, a region of the brain responsible for memory.
The protective mechanism was most effective in young rats and average age, which suggests that humans who are more intellectually stimulated during childhood and youth and, therefore, receive a richer life experience, are at lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and thus can maintain memory intact for longer.
A good stimulus, at least for the elderly, can be the use of computers and video game consoles. In a study at the University of North Carolina, doctors Jason Allaire and Anne McLaughlin interviewed 140 individuals over the age of 63 years and researched their index of satisfaction with life. The study found that 60% of them played video games and concluded that the habit left them happier.
Among the respondents who were an average of 77 years, 35% were playing at least once a week. Those who had not played had more negative emotions and greater risk of developing depression.
If the cognitive exercises don’t work, even so medicine can search a solution for the brain to regenerate.
A Yale University study also published in the journal Neuron, conducted by Dr. Stephen Strittmatter and colleagues. In this study, the researchers were able to transform a mature and stable brain into a young brain, blocking just the action of a protein. The mature brain has more stable connections and, therefore, manages to keep written, motion and patterns of behavior beyond the memory of facts. The young brain, in turn, can learn new things and regenerate better and faster.
Scientists have found that a receptor on the neuron’s membrane called Nogo1 is responsible for this plasticity of the young brain. When stimulated, it promotes the formation of new connections between neurons. The study of Dr. Strittmatter was made in adult rats with mature brains blocking the action of the Nogo1 receiver.
In doing so, the researcher was able to turn the mature brain young again, allowing the adult mouse to come back to the same level as the brain of a young mouse.
This study may allow reversing the brain damage to adult brains to the same speed and efficiency as the brains of children, making it easier to recover from an injured area, in the event of a stroke, for example.
Translated from the Portuguese version by: Lisa Karpova