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Running Monkeys

December 23, 2009

Vigorous exercise helps monkeys avoid symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.


Exercise for the brain…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

As we age, we lose brain cells that produce a chemical called dopamine. If 80% of these cells die off, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can result. But neuroscientist Judy Cameron of the University of Pittsburgh says exercise could slow down this process. She and her colleagues taught a group of monkeys to run on a treadmill five hours a week for three months. They were then exposed to a toxin that normally destroys dopamine-producing cells, causing mild Parkinson’s symptoms. But none of the monkeys developed them.

JUDY CAMERON (University of Pittsburgh):
Their brains were very protected, we saw almost no effect of the toxin on dopamine neurons, and we saw absolutely no functional impairment.

She says another group of monkeys got partial protection simply by walking. The researchers think exercise could have similar anti-Parkinson’s benefits for people, too. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.