Can an Athlete’s Blood Enhance Brainpower?

fahrbot-bot shares a report from The New York Times: What if something in the blood of an athlete could boost the brainpower of someone who doesn't or can't exercise? Could a protein that gets amplified when people exercise help stave off symptoms of Alzheimer's and other memory disorders? That's the tantalizing prospect raised by a new study in which researchers injected sedentary mice with blood from mice that ran for miles on exercise wheels, and found that the sedentary mice then did better on tests of learning and memory. The study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, also found that the type of brain inflammation involved in Alzheimer's and other neurological disorders was reduced in sedentary mice after they received their athletic counterparts' blood. Scientific results with mice don't necessarily translate to humans. Still, experts said the study supports a growing body of research. The study involved mice that were about three months old -- roughly the equivalent of 25-to-30-year olds for humans. Some of the mice, nocturnal animals that love to run, could freely use exercise wheels in their cages and logged about four to six miles on the wheels each night. The wheels were locked for other mice that could scoot around their cages but could not get an extended cardio workout. [...] After 28 days, the researchers took a third group of mice that also did not exercise and injected them with blood plasma, the liquid that surrounds blood cells, from either the runner mice or the non-runner mice. Mice receiving runner blood did better on two tests of learning and memory than those receiving blood from the non-runner mice. In one test, which measures how long a mouse will freeze in fear when it is returned to a cage where it previously received an electric foot shock, mice with runner blood froze 25 percent longer, indicating they had better memory of the stressful event [...]. In the other test, mice with runner blood were twice as fast at finding a platform submerged in opaque water, he said. The team also found that the brains of mice with runner blood produced more of several types of brain cells, including those that generate new neurons in the hippocampus, a region involved in memory and spatial learning. A genetic analysis showed that about 1,950 genes had changed in response to the infusion of runner blood, becoming either more or less activated. Most of the 250 genes with the greatest activation changes were involved in inflammation and their changes suggested that brain inflammation was reduced.

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