Exercise promises to reverse the affects of dementia

Professor Perry Bartlett, founding director of the Queensland Brain Institute, has been awarded the CSL Florey Medal for his discoveries in neuroscience and that the brain is ever-changing.


Professor Bartlett’s research turned on its head conventional wisdom that the brain was hardwired.


“So it was very exciting when I was able to prove that there were actually stem cells in the adult brain, which means that the adult brain has the capacity to repair itself. This has significant implications for treatments for people with brain injuries and diseases,” he said.


In 1982 Professor Bartlett predicted the presence of stem cells in the brain and in 1992 he proved the theory correct when he found them in mouse embryos, then in adults. It wasn’t until 2001 that he was able to isolate the brain stem cells in adult mice.


His research then focussed on stem cells in the hippocampus.


“We know that the hippocampus is vital for the formation of spatial navigation and remembering when and where activities occur,” Professor Bartlett said.


“Our latest work suggests that many different groups of stem cells are at work in the hippocampus regenerating new neural connections. We now understand that the brain is very plastic, changing all the time.”


Exercise may reverse decline in brain function

More recently, Professor Bartlett has successfully used exercise to reverse the effects of dementia and recover memories in mice. Human exercise trials are slated to start in 2016.


“Our first thought back at the beginning was ‘Wow, now we will be able to repair the brain’,” he said. “And, while it’s still been a long road, they are now well on the way.


In mice trials, those suffering from dementia sysptoms were able to again find their way through mazes after the right amount of exercise wheel effort. Too little or too much exercise and the curative benefits were not realised.


“What excites me is that our initial discoveries nearly 25 years ago are now leading to potential treatments for dementia [reversing its effects], and maybe for depression too.”


See Professor Perry Bartlett explain his findings on Utube at https://youtu.be/hIuBSX5hrFw


11 November 2015.