Exercise is known to be good for the ageing brain and new research is starting to investigate why.
Dr Belinda Brown, a researcher from Murdoch University’s School of Psychology and Exercise Science, will compare the effects of high-intensity and moderate-intensity exercise on the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Currently there is no effective cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s disease that can alter the disease course and so delaying the onset through lifestyle factors is very important,” Dr Brown said.
“There has been a lot of research that has evaluated physical activity level at one point in life and then followed these people up 10 or 20 years later to check on symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
“We are now able to take a more immediate look at what’s going on in the brain.”
Her team is using new technology that identifies the levels of certain proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease in the brains of living people.
“We can now use PET scanning on people to measure levels of amyloid and tau, which are two proteins that accumulate in the brain to cause Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr Brown said.
“This has enabled us to begin to understand how these proteins are connected to the disease by looking at people at different stages in life and finding associations with their levels of physical activity.”
Dr Brown has already conducted a number of studies with different groups of people to investigate how exercise can maintain the ageing brain.
“Our research is gathering evidence that exercise is delaying the onset of symptoms through a slower rate of amyloid and tau build up,” she said.
“We have recently completed a study on older adults who did not display any symptoms of the disease, and we showed that individuals who exercised more had lower levels of tau present,” she said.
“We have also examined a group of 30 to 40 year olds with a rare genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s disease, and found an association between higher levels of physical activity and slower rate of amyloid build up in the brain.
“Our next stage is to establish what type of activity is of most benefit to an ageing brain.”
Dr Brown’s current study is funded by the National Medical and Health Research Council’s Institute of Dementia.
She is looking for generally healthy men and women without a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease aged 60 – 80 years to participate in the study. Exercise sessions will be conducted out of Murdoch University and so proximity to Murdoch is desirable.
To register your interest, contact Shaun Markovic on 6457 0266 or S.Markovic@murdoch.edu.au
Source: Murdoch University