DC, July 23, 2015 – Findings
from research conducted at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center by Laura Baker,
Ph.D., associate professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine, were reported
today at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington,
One of the
hallmarks of Alzheimer’s is a brain lesion known as a tau tangle. Normally, tau
functions to stabilize the structure of cells in the brain. When is becomes
abnormal, tau initiates a variety of biological changes that can result in
brain cells dying. Higher levels of tau in the brain are associated with faster
rates of decline to Alzheimer’s dementia. Therapies to prevent cognitive
decline and dementia are now beginning to focus on reducing tau.
previously shown that in older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI),
regular moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise has benefits for cognition
and plasma levels of amyloid protein, the primary component of the other
Alzheimer’s hallmark lesion, known as plaques.
the study reported on today, participants were randomly assigned to either
supervised aerobic training or a stretching group for 45-60 minutes four times
per week for six months, using community facilities. The aerobic group
exercised at 70 to 80 percent of their maximum heart rate, while the stretching
group exercised at below 35 percent.
The researchers tested participant’s cognitive skills (verbal recall, tests of
executive function) and examined blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples at
the beginning and end of the study.
participants also received MRI brain scans. Participants completed their
assigned exercise activities 92 percent of the time.
researchers found that:
Participants who completed aerobic exercise (most commonly using a treadmill)
saw a statistically significant (p<0.05) reduction in tau levels in CSF. The
effect was most pronounced in adults over the age of 70.
Aerobic exercise significantly (p<0.05) increased blood flow in the memory
and processing centers of participant’s brains, with a corresponding
improvement in attention, planning, and organizing abilities referred to as
“executive function” (p<0.05).
findings are important because they strongly suggest a potent lifestyle
intervention such as aerobic exercise can impact Alzheimer’s-related changes in
the brain,” Baker said. “No currently approved medication can rival these
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