A new study supports the concept that prolonged and intensive environmental stimulation may have beneficial effects in delaying one of the key negative factors in Alzheimer’s disease.

It is well known that staying mentally active throughout life lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but how this works is unknown.

In theMarch 6 edition of Neuron, researchers reported that beta2-adrenergic signaling plays a key role. Wild-type mice that explored new toys every day had more synaptic plasticity and better resisted the toxic effects of ABeta oligomers compared to mice housed in the standard, boring cages. When researchers blocked the beta2-adrenergic pathway, the protection vanished. Conversely, feeding a beta2-adrenergic agonist to mice in the bland cages mimicked the benefit of an enriched environment.

Intriguingly, beta-adrenergic signaling has been shown to decline in AD brains.

Moreover, the scientists found that exposing the brain to novel activities in particular provided greater protection against Alzheimer’s disease than did just aerobic exercise. According to the researchers, this observation may be due to stimulation that occurred not only physically, but also mentally, when the mice moved quickly from one novel object to another.