Researchers at Melbourne's Howard Florey Institute have found that increased mental and physical activity can delay the inception of dementia in Huntington's disease.
The study led by Dr Jess Nithianantharajah and Dr Anthony Hannan was conducted over genetically engineered mice with the Huntington's disease displaying learning and memory impairments at early stages.
The findings revealed mice performed better on the memory tests when exposed to enriched environment enhancing mental and physical stimulation.
"This discovery is quite remarkable because we have shown that an enriched environment not only delayed the onset of dementia, but it also slowed the progression of memory loss in these mice," said Dr Nithianantharajah.
"We also showed that in the Huntington's disease mice, specific molecular changes occur that relate to communication between brain cells (synapses) in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which plays a significant role in the formation of memories," she added.
The researchers found that the Huntington's disease mice, without increased mental and physical activity expressed decreased levels of specific proteins that are expressed at the synapse that are essential for normal brain function, while the mice exposed to increased mental and physical activity did not show this decrease.
They believe that the findings would play a key role in treating other brain diseases like Alzheimer's and developing new treatments for complex psychiatric disorders, like depression and schizophrenia.
This research was recently published in the international Journal of Neurobiology of Disease.