Nerve cell function impacted when movement is limited

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NEUROLOGICAL health depends as much on signals sent by the body’s leg muscles to the brain as it does on those sent from the brain to the muscles, according to a recent study.
These results offer new clues as to why patients with neurological diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) often rapidly decline when their movement becomes limited.
The study, “Reduction of Movement in Neurological Diseases: Effects on Neural Stem Cells Characteristics,” was published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.
“Our study supports the notion that people who are unable to do load-bearing exercises — such as patients who are bed-ridden, or even astronauts on extended travel — not only lose muscle mass, but their body chemistry is altered at the cellular level and even their nervous system is adversely impacted,” Raffaella Adami, the study’s first author from the Università degli Studi di Milano in Italy, said in a press release.
The team used a mouse model with severe hind limb movement deprivation. These mice were restricted from using their hind legs, but not their front legs, over a period of 28 days.
This model is used to simulate the movement limitations experienced by people with motor diseases, those on extended bed rest, or astronauts who spend long periods in space.
Researchers looked at the impact of reduced exercise in an area of the brain responsible for maintaining nerve cell health and producing neural stem cells — brain cells that can give rise to new neurons.
Animals with restricted movement had a 70% reduction in the number of neural stem cells compared with control mice allowed to move freely.
When they looked at these cells under the microscope, researchers saw that neurons and oligodendrocytes — specialized cells that support and insulate neurons — could not fully mature when exercise was severely reduced.

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