Mice Study Suggests Exercise + Healthy Environment = Longer Life

Researchers have discovered a gene in the brain’s dopamine system can prolong life when combined with an enriched environment that includes exercise.

Researchers at the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions studied the genes in dopamine to assess their impact on lifespan and behavior in mice. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and helps regulate physical mobility and emotional response.

Dr. Panayotis (Peter) K. Thanos, and his team found that the dopamine D2 receptor gene (D2R) significantly influences lifespan, body weight, and locomotor activity. However, a longer life only occurs when the gene is combined with an environment that included social interaction, sensory, and cognitive stimulation and, most critically, exercise.

“The incorporation of exercise is an important component of an enriched environment and its benefits have been shown to be a powerful mediator of brain function and behavior,” Thanos said.

The mice in the enriched environment lived anywhere from 16 to 22 percent longer than those in a deprived environment, depending on the level of D2R expression.

“These results provide the first evidence of D2R gene-environment interaction playing an important role in longevity and aging,” Thanos said.

“The dichotomy over genes versus environment has provided a rigorous and long debate in deciphering individual differences in longevity. In truth, there exists a complex interaction between the two which contribute to the differences.”

The study appears in the journal, Oncotarget Aging.

Investigators believe additional research exploring this genetic-environmental interaction should lead to a better understanding and prediction of the potential benefits of specific environments — including exercise — on longevity and health during aging.

Source: University of Buffalo