Epidemiological studies indicate that intellectual activity prevents or delays the onset of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Similarly, cognitive stimulation using environmental enrichment (EE), which increases adult neurogenesis and functional integration of newborn neurons into neural circuits of the hippocampus, protects against memory decline in transgenic mouse models of AD, but the mechanisms involved are poorly understood. To study the therapeutic benefits of cognitive stimulation in AD we examined the effects of EE in hippocampal neurogenesis and memory in a transgenic mouse model of AD expressing the human mutant β-amyloid (Aβ) precursor protein (APP(Sw,Ind)). By using molecular markers of new generated neurons (bromodeoxiuridine, NeuN and doublecortin), we found reduced neurogenesis and decreased dendritic length and projections of doublecortin-expressing cells of the dentate gyrus in young APP(Sw,Ind) transgenic mice. Moreover, we detected a lower number of mature neurons (NeuN positive) in the granular cell layer and a reduced volume of the dentate gyrus that could be due to a sustained decrease in the incorporation of new generated neurons. We found that short-term EE for 7 weeks efficiently ameliorates early hippocampal-dependent spatial learning and memory deficits in APP(Sw,Ind) transgenic mice. The cognitive benefits of enrichment in APP(Sw,Ind) transgenic mice were associated with increased number, dendritic length and projections to the CA3 region of the most mature adult newborn neurons. By contrast, Aβ levels and the total number of neurons in the dentate gyrus were unchanged by EE in APP(Sw,Ind) mice. These results suggest that promoting the survival and maturation of adult generated newborn neurons in the hippocampus may contribute to cognitive benefits in AD mouse models.
Valero, J., España, J., Parra-Damas, A., Martín, E., Rodríguez-Álvarez, J., & Saura, C. A. (2011). Short-term environmental enrichment rescues adult neurogenesis and memory deficits in APPSw,Ind transgenic mice. PLoS ONE, 6(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0016832