When elderly people stay active, their brains have more of a class of proteins that enhances the connections between neurons to maintain healthy cognition, a new study has found. This protective impact was found even in people whose brains at autopsy were riddled with toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Casaletto, a neuropsychologist and member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, worked with William Honer, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia and senior author of the study, to leverage data from the Memory and Aging Project at Rush University in Chicago. That project tracked the late-life physical activity of elderly participants, who also agreed to donate their brains when they died.
Honer and Casaletto found that elderly people who remained active had higher levels of proteins that facilitate the exchange of information between neurons. This result dovetailed with Honer’s earlier finding that people who had more of these proteins in their brains when they died were better able to maintain their cognition late in life. To their surprise, Honer said, the researchers found that the effects ranged beyond the hippocampus, the brain’s seat of memory, to encompass other brain regions associated with cognitive function.
Source (University of California San Francisco, Robin Marks, Exercise Alters Brain Chemistry to Protect Aging Synapses, 7 January 2022.)
Paper: Casaletto, K., Ramos‐Miguel, A., VandeBunte, A., Memel, M., Buchman, A., Bennett, D. and Honer, W., 2022. Late‐life physical activity relates to brain tissue synaptic integrity markers in older adults. Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
Image source: Carapeto, P.V. and Aguayo-Mazzucato, C., 2021. Effects of exercise on cellular and tissue aging. Aging (Albany NY), 13(10), p.14522.