[ASC-media] Exercise is good, but brain and body is better

Merrin Rafferty m.rafferty at hfi.unimelb.EDU.AU
Tue Nov 14 03:44:22 CET 2006


Media Release

14 November 2006


Australian Huntington's Disease National Conference: 15 - 17 November


Exercise is good, but brain and body is better


Scientists at Melbourne's Howard Florey Institute have shown that
physical exercise alone can delay onset of memory loss in Huntington's
disease (HD), but a combination of mental and physical exercise is more
beneficial in delaying the fatal genetic disease's symptoms. 


Dr Anthony Hannan's ground-breaking nature-versus-nurture studies have
previously shown that a combination of mental and physical exercise
could delay the onset and progression of HD, but then he asked the
question, "Is exercise alone responsible for these dramatic effects?"


Dr Hannan explains why exercise combined with mental stimulation showed
the most dramatic benefits in HD mice. 


"The combination of mental and physical exercise requires a greater
range of movements and fine coordination, which is more challenging than
simply running on a mouse wheel," Dr Hannan said.


 "Unlike our other studies, these HD mice were only given running wheels
to enhance physical activity, compared to previous studies where mice
had a range of mazes, toys and exercise equipment to stimulate them both
mentally and physically.


"This study has allowed us to compare data with our previous work to
prove that to effectively delay the onset and progression of HD, a
combination of physical and mental stimulation is essential.


"Surprisingly, we found in this latest study that physically active HD
mice had the same level of memory restoration as HD mice used in a
previous experiment to test the effects of fluoxetine (commonly marketed
as Prozac(r)).


"If we can develop a drug that creates the same reaction in the brain
that occurs with mental and physical stimulation, this could lead to a
radical treatment for HD patients.


"Due to its well-defined genetics and range of symptoms, Huntington's
disease is a very powerful model for setting up paradigms in the
nature-versus-nurture area.


"Our research has therapeutic implications for other devastating and
difficult to treat neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer's disease
and related forms of dementia. 


"Treatments for complex psychiatric disorders, like depression and
schizophrenia, may also benefit from our efforts to understand how genes
and environment combine in brain disorders," Dr Hannan said.


Huntington's disease is characterised by degeneration of significant
areas of the brain, producing motor, cognitive and psychiatric symptoms.
It was previously thought that onset and progression of the disease was
100% genetically determined and could not be delayed, but Dr Hannan's
research has proven this theory incorrect.


There is no cure for HD and death usually results within 10 to 20 years
of symptom onset. The disease can be detected by genetic testing and it
is caused by a mutation in a single gene and this defective gene is
passed from affected parents to 50 percent of their children, who will
inherit the disorder.


At only 36 years of age, Dr Hannan is internationally recognised for his
HD research and was recently awarded a $1M Pfizer Australia Senior
Research Fellowship to fund his ongoing research HD and other brain


For this study Dr Hannan's team included Terence Pang, Nathan Stam, Jess
Nithianantharajah and Monique Howard. Their work was recently published
in the international journals Neuroscience and Nature Reviews


The Howard Florey Institute is Australia's leading brain research
centre. Its scientists undertake clinical and applied research that can
be developed into treatments to combat brain disorders, and new medical
practices. Their discoveries will improve the lives of those directly,
and indirectly, affected by brain and mind disorders in Australia, and
around the world. The Florey's research areas cover a variety of brain
and mind disorders including Parkinson's disease, stroke, motor neuron
disease, addiction, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, autism and dementia.




For more information contact:

Merrin Rafferty

Public Relations Manager

Howard Florey Institute

Ph: (03) 8344 1658     M: 0400 829 601

Email: m.rafferty at hfi.unimelb.edu.au
<mailto:m.rafferty at hfi.unimelb.edu.au> 

Web: www.hfi.unimelb.edu.au


Merrin Rafferty
Public Relations Manager
Howard Florey Institute
Ph: +61 3 8344 1658
Fax: +61 3 9347 0446
www.hfi.unimelb.edu.au <http://www.hfi.unimelb.edu.au/> 
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