Protecting ageing synapses through exercise

healthy cognition

Keeping the ageing population as active as possible, enhances the connections between neurons to maintain healthy cognition

The beneficial effects of physical activity on cognition have been shown in mice but have been much harder to demonstrate in people. Appearing in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, this breakthrough research “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” according to Kaitlin Casaletto, PhD and lead author.

“Maintaining the integrity of these connections between neurons may be vital to fending off dementia, since the synapse is really the site where cognition happens,” Casaletto said. “Physical activity—a readily available tool—may help boost this synaptic functioning.”

“Physical activity—a readily available tool—may help boost this synaptic functioning.”

With many outlets dedicated to elderly exercise including walking, swimming, water aerobics, dancing and much more. This breakthrough could inspire many elderly people to get involved in activities that may massively benefit their mental wellbeing, synaptic functions and promoting healthy cognition.

Boosting synaptic functioning

William Honer, MD and Casaletto found that elderly people who remained active had higher levels of proteins that assist the exchange of information between neurons. This result coincided with Honer’s earlier findings in a project that tracked the late-life physical activity of elderly participants.

Honers research showed that people who had more of these proteins in their brains when they died were better able to maintain their cognition late in life.

“It may be that physical activity exerts a global sustaining effect, supporting and stimulating healthy function of proteins that facilitate synaptic transmission throughout the brain,” Honer said.

To their surprise, Honer said, the researchers found that the effects ranged beyond the hippocampus, the brain’s seat of memory, to encompass other brain regions associated with cognitive function.

“Taken together, these two studies show the potential importance of maintaining synaptic health to support the brain against Alzheimer’s disease.”

A Systematic Review of the Characteristics of Interventions that Promote Physical Activity in Adults with Asthma’ is published in the Journal of Health Psychology.


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