Environmental enrichment improves genetic mental disorder
Mental and physical exercise can improve coordination and movement problems in person affected with 'Rett syndrome.' Australian scientists experimenting on mice have found that mice responded positively to the effects of environment enrichment.
Rett syndrome, a complex neurological devastating brain development disorder, is genetic in origin. It affects primarily girl child, with boys in exception. A child either born with Rett syndrome or it becomes more evident during the second year. On an average, one in every 10,000 females born with Rett syndrome.
For the experiment, a mouse with Rett syndrome was developed by the scientists. The researchers from the Howard Florey Institute found the onset and severity of coordination and movement problem was reduced by giving the Rett syndrome mice a range of mazes, toys and exercise equipment to stimulate them both mentally and physically.
“Mari Kondo in my laboratory discovered that environmental enrichment significantly improved the ability of the Rett syndrome mice to learn and maintain tasks that required coordinated movements,” Anthony Hannan of the Howard Florey Institute said.
Researchers also found that a special brain chemical known as BDNF, which plays a significant role in the birth and survival of new neurons as well as modifying connections in the brain, was at equal level in both normal and the Rett syndrome mice.
The Rett syndrome that had lower level of BDNF did not receive environmental enrichment and also responded poorly on movement and coordination tasks, while the mice enriched with higher level of BDNF responded well.
This discovery shows that gene-environment interactions may be important for all brain diseases, including those caused by an inherited gene mutation.
“The next step is for us to look at the effects of environmental enrichment on anxiety and cognition in the mice, as these are common problems in Rett syndrome,” Anthony Hannan said.
The research was published in the European Journal of Neuroscience.
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