Environmental Enrichment as a Protection Against Neurodegenerative Diseases

From an article published in June 2023, in the journal of Experimental Biology and Medicine

Vaquero-Rodríguez A, Ortuzar N, Lafuente JV, Bengoetxea H. Enriched environment as a nonpharmacological neuroprotective strategy. Experimental Biology and Medicine. 2023;0(0). doi:10.1177/15353702231171915

Neurodegenerative diseases are a group of conditions that cause the death of brain cells, which can lead to a decline in cognitive function, memory, and movement.

There are many different neurodegenerative diseases, including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)
  • Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)

There is currently no cure for neurodegenerative diseases, but there are treatments that can help to slow the progression of the disease and improve quality of life.

One potential treatment for neurodegenerative diseases is environmental enrichment (EE). EE is a non-pharmaceutical intervention that involves providing people with experiences that induce an elevated state of neuroplasticity.

A recent study published in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine found that EE may have neuroprotective effects in animal models of neurodegenerative diseases. The study found that EE increased neuronal survival, synaptic plasticity, and cognitive function in animals with neurodegenerative diseases. EE also increased the expression of neurotrophic factors, antioxidants, and genes involved in neuronal survival and synaptic plasticity.

These findings suggest that EE is a promising non-pharmacological intervention that has the potential to protect neurons from damage and improve cognitive function in neurodegenerative diseases. Further research is needed to confirm the efficacy of EE in clinical trials and to identify the optimal parameters for EE.

However, the study is significant for a number of reasons.

  1. First, it provides strong evidence that EE can have neuroprotective effects in animal models of neurodegenerative diseases.
  2. Second, it identifies a number of potential mechanisms by which EE may protect neurons from damage.
  3. Third, it suggests that EE may be a promising non-pharmacological intervention for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

If EE is found to be effective in clinical trials, it could provide a new way to treat neurodegenerative diseases. EE is a non-invasive and relatively inexpensive intervention, which could make it a more attractive option than pharmacological treatments.

In the meantime, here are some ways that you can enrich your environment to help protect against neurodegenerative diseases:

  • Get regular exercise. Exercise helps to keep your brain healthy by increasing blood flow and oxygen levels.
  • Stay socially active. Social interaction helps to keep your brain engaged and active.
  • Challenge your mind. Learning new things and engaging in mentally stimulating activities helps to keep your brain healthy.

Most importantly,

  • Expose yourself to new sensory and motor experiences, in particular touch and smell as these have the most clinical evidence showing an impact on neuroplasticity.

By enriching your environment, you can help to keep your brain healthy and protect against neurodegenerative diseases.

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