An idle mind is Alzheimer’s workshop

Those who use their brains in novel ways, are more likely to delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease

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Previous research has shown that keeping the mind active, exercising and being more social may assist in delaying the onset of dementia in Alzheimer’s disease.

Now, Dennis Selkoe, MD, co-director of the Center for Neurologic Diseases in the BWH Department of Neurology lead a study that provides scientific evidence confirming the same. The study published online in Neuron reveals that long-term and intensive stimulation of the brain by an enriched environment, particularly indulging in new activities on a regular basis, may have positive effects in postponing one of the key negative factors in Alzheimer’s disease.

Key cause of Alzheimer’s

When a protein called amyloid beta accumulates and forms plaques in the brain, it prevents proper communication between nerve cells. Over time, this slowly leads to a decrease in a person’s mental processes, such as memory, attention, and the ability to learn, understand and process information.

Study methodology

The BWH researchers used a wild-type mouse model when evaluating how the surroundings may affect Alzheimer’s disease. This breed of mice closely mimic the humans as far as developing Alzheimer;s goes.


Repeated exposures to new environments caused certain adrenaline-related brain receptors to get active.This trigger prevented amyloid beta protein from damaging the communication between nerve cells in the brain’s “memory centre,” the hippocampus.

“This suggests that prolonged exposure to a richer, more novel environment, might help protect the hippocampus from the bad effects of amyloid beta, which builds up to toxic levels in one hundred per cent of Alzheimer patients,” said Selkoe.

Moreover, the scientists found that exposing the brain to novel activities in particular provided greater protection against Alzheimer’s disease than did just aerobic exercise. According to the researchers, this observation may be due to stimulation that occurred not only physically, but also mentally, when the mice moved quickly from one novel object to another.

This basically boils down to adding novelty to your life. Visit new places. Explore new activities. And keep Alzheimer’s at bay.



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