Running rats remember better!

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Early life interventions that increase physical activity could help delay onset of neurodegenerative disorders, a study in rats suggests.

Young rats with access to a running wheel show improved memory later in life and increased activity of neurons generated in adulthood, finds a study published in eNeuro. The results raise the possibility that exercise early in life may help to protect against age-related cognitive decline.

Martin Wojtowicz and colleagues found that six-weeks of voluntary running, beginning at one month of age in rats, was sufficient to induce a long-term effect on learning and memory of a fear response that depends on newly generated neurons in the hippocampus in adulthood. They also found that the activity of the adult-born neurons was enhanced compared to those acquired during development and to those of rats housed in a standard cage without a running wheel.

The findings are consistent with the idea of cognitive reserve, whereby the brain draws on enriching experiences from youth to compensate for functional declines as a result of age or disease. Early life interventions that increase physical activity may therefore help to build up this reserve, potentially delaying the onset of neuro-degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

So get on that treadmill; your brain is depending on you!

—Science Daily