- Early learning could beat dementia in
- A stimulating environment that encourages
learning could help children avoid developing degenerative brain diseases
in later life, scientists say.
- Researchers believe they have compelling
evidence that children who grow up in such an environment are less likely
to get diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
- Early exposure to learning may also increase
the body's ability to repair damaged brain cells, the study found.
- Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University
in Philadelphia and the University of Auckland in New Zealand drew their
conclusions from experiments conducted on laboratory rats.
- They found that the rats lost 45% fewer
brain cells to ageing if they were given rubber balls, running wheels and
tunnels to play with and if they got special treats such as corn chips.
- Some of the active rats also received
a brain stimulant called kainic acid.
- They showed almost complete protection
from brain cell loss.
- An 'enriched environment'
- Director of Jefferson Medical College's
Central Nervous System Gene Therapy Centre, Dr Matthew During, said: "We
were hoping to get some scientific underpinnings to the age-old maxim 'use
it or lose it'."
- "An enriched environment switched
on genes in the brain, and we believe by that mechanism the brain becomes
super-resilient, resistant to ageing and diseases, such as Alzheimer's
and Parkinson's, and traumatic brain injury."
- He added: "There haven't been many
careful studies done in the lab to show if actively using your brain enhances
your ability to stay healthy, and what mechanisms might be involved in
protecting the brain.
- "We asked what that [stimulating
environment] would do to cognitive function, particularly in preventing
brain cell death and symptoms of Alzheimer's and other diseases resulting
in brain degeneration."
- However, publishing their findings in
the journal Nature Medicine, the authors said further research is necessary
to determine exactly what about the environment helped stimulate brain-protecting