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Short-term resistance exercise inhibits neuroinflammation and attenuates neuropathological changes in 3xTg Alzheimer's disease mice

PainSci » bibliography » Liu et al 2020
Tags: inflam-sys, strength, exercise, self-treatment, treatment

Three articles on PainSci cite Liu 2020: 1. Strength Training for Pain & Injury Rehab2. Guide to Repetitive Strain Injuries3. Chronic, Subtle, Systemic Inflammation

PainSci commentary on Liu 2020: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

Lifting weights: good for Alzheimer’s? Good chance. This study clearly showed a neuroprotective effect from resistance training in mice. Compared to mice who were not given cute little barbells! Specifically, they found:

“improved cognitive performance and reduced neuropathological and neuroinflammatory changes in the frontal cortex and hippocampus of mice… [and] inhibition of pro-inflammatory intracellular pathways.”

Obviously a human study would be more persuasive (always), but it’s still early days for studying neuroinflammation. Lots of what we now know about exercise physiology we learned from mice initially. It’s likely (or at least highly plausible) that the effect will be confirmed in humans as well, despite the fact that “mice lie and monkeys exaggerate” in research.

It has been clear for many years now that exercise in general is neuroprotective — that is, it has an anti-inflammatory effect in the brain and slows down Alzheimer’s disease progression — but that insight mostly comes from studies of aerobic exercise. This study extends that effect to resistance training, which is why the conclusion isn't much of a reach: we already know that another kind of exercise does this, and we already know that resistance training is an excellent way to exercise.

And now, just for fun… how exactly do you strength train mice? A ladder with a treat at the top, and teensy weights attached to their tails! I am not even joking: that really is how they did this. “The mice were motivated to climb up the ladder to a total of 15 times, with progressively heavier weights attached to their tails and a 2-minute rest in between each climb.” Sounds like more fun than my gym visits.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: Both human and animal studies have shown beneficial effects of physical exercise on brain health but most tend to be based on aerobic rather than resistance type regimes. Resistance exercise has the advantage of improving both muscular and cardiovascular function, both of which can benefit the frail and the elderly. However, the neuroprotective effects of resistance training in cognitive impairment are not well characterized.

METHODS: We evaluated whether short-term resistant training could improve cognitive function and pathological changes in mice with pre-existing cognitive impairment. Nine-month-old 3xTg mouse underwent a resistance training protocol of climbing up a 1-m ladder with a progressively heavier weight loading.

RESULTS: Compared with sedentary counterparts, resistance training improved cognitive performance and reduced neuropathological and neuroinflammatory changes in the frontal cortex and hippocampus of mice. In line with these results, inhibition of pro-inflammatory intracellular pathways was also demonstrated.

CONCLUSIONS: Short-term resistance training improved cognitive function in 3xTg mice, and conferred beneficial effects on neuroinflammation, amyloid and tau pathology, as well as synaptic plasticity. Resistance training may represent an alternative exercise strategy for delaying disease progression in Alzheimer's disease.

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