Physical activity may decrease immune cell activation and improve the health of the brain in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

While everyone will agree that a healthy lifestyle is beneficial, it’s unclear how physical activity can improve brain health, particularly in Alzheimer’s. The benefits may come about through a decrease in the activation of immune cells as per new research published in JNeurosci.

The brain’s microglia, which are immune cells are activated to eliminate foreign invaders and other debris from the brain. Over-activation can cause inflammation, damage to neurons or disrupt brain signaling. Exercise reduces aberrant activation in animals, but the link hasn’t been established in humans.

Casaletto et al. studied the relationship between physical activity and microglia activation 167 older adults from a variety of cognitive aging (majority non-demented) as part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project. The participants were monitored for activity throughout the day for up to ten days straight before annual cognitive tests. In postmortem brain tissue analysis the researchers examined microglia activity as well as AD pathology. The higher levels of physical activity were linked to less microglial activity, especially in the inferior temporal Grus which is the part of the brain most affected by AD. Physical activity had an increased impact on inflammation in people with more severe AD pathology. Future research will examine whether physical activity interventions modify the activation of microglia in AD patients.

Journal reference:

Casaletto, K.B., et al. (2021) Microglial correlates of late-life physical activity: Relationship to synaptic and cognitive aging in older adults. JNeurosci.

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Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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