When elderly people stay active, their brains have more of a class of proteins that enhances the connections between neurons to maintain healthy cognition, a UC San Francisco study has found.
This protective impact was found even in people whose brains at autopsy were riddled with toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
“Our work is the first that uses human data to show that synaptic protein regulation is related to physical activity and may drive the beneficial cognitive outcomes we see,” said Kaitlin Casaletto, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology and lead author on the study.
The beneficial effects of physical activity on cognition have been shown in mice but have been much harder to demonstrate in people.
Casaletto, a neuropsychologist and member of the Weill Institute for Neurosciences, worked with William Honer, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia and senior author of the study, to leverage data from the Memory and Aging Project at Rush University in Chicago. That project tracked the late-life physical activity of elderly participants, who also agreed to donate their brains when they died.
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