January is Alzheimer’s awareness month, and a team of University of Lethbridge neuroscientists have shown that tactile stimulation (TS)—or touch—has shown promise as a non-invasive way to slow the onset of dementia in ageing mice.
Current treatments for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) only work to slow the progression of the disease, not to cure or help prevent it. Due to this, researchers at the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience have been working to increase the awareness about what exactly happens in the brain with AD and to look into more therapeutic options.
This research study by Dr. Bryan Kolb, Dr. Majid Mohajerani and their team involved using mice that were specifically bred to develop Alzheimer’s and were spilt into three groups, those that received touch from birth to 21 days, those that received touch starting at 4 months for 15 days, and those that received no touch.
The study found that the mice who received touch, or tactile stimulation, in the form of light massaging, had improved cognitive and motor dysfunctions and reduced anxiety like behaviours.
“We found that tactile stimulation significantly improved cognitive and motor dysfunctions and reduced anxiety-like behaviours, regardless of whether the TS was administered in infancy or adulthood,” says Dr. Bryan Kolb.
“On top of that, mice that received TS showed reduced numbers and sizes of plaques in the brain and greater hippocampal volume than mice that didn’t receive TS.”
The tactile stimulation works to stimulate activity of the vagus nerve, something that produces various changes in the brain like reduced inflammation and increased immune function. It can also increase the production of neurotrophic factors which help support the growth, survival and development of neurons.
More information on the study can be found on the U of L website.