Highly read on www.cell.com in April
Studies suggest that symptoms of Alzheimer's disease can be delayed if people keep their brains active, and researchers have now uncovered a potential underlying mechanism.
Dennis Selkoe, Shaomin Li and their colleagues at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, enhanced the environment of mice by frequently changing their toys. Synaptic plasticity — experience-dependent changes in connectivity between neurons that are associated with learning and memory — increased in mice living in novelty-rich cages for several weeks. The increase came, in part, from activation of β2-adrenergic receptors.
The researchers then applied amyloid-β protein, which is known to accumulate in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease, to brains from mice that had either been kept in an enriched environment or been given drugs that activate β2-adrenergic receptors. Both conditions prevented the synaptic dysfunction that the protein normally causes.