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Dev Neurosci. 2011;33(5):428-41. doi: 10.1159/000329423. Epub 2011 Aug 25.

Environmental enrichment rescues postnatal neurogenesis defect in the male and female Ts65Dn mouse model of Down syndrome.

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Center for Neuroscience Research, Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC, USA.


Down syndrome (DS), the most frequent genetic cause of intellectual disability and developmental delay, results from impaired neural stem cell proliferation and differentiation. Impaired neurogenesis in the neocortex, hippocampus and cerebellum is believed to be the underlying cause of learning and behavioral deficits in the Ts65Dn mouse model of DS. Aggressive sensorimotor and cognitive therapies have shown promise in mitigating the cognitive disabilities in DS but these behavioral therapies have not yet been investigated at the cellular level. Here, using the Ts65Dn mouse model of DS, we demonstrate that a combination of environmental enrichment and physical exercise starting in juvenile mice (postnatal day 18) markedly increases cell proliferation, neurogenesis and gliogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) and the forebrain subventricular zone (SVZ) of both male and female mice. Enrichment and exercise increased the rate of Ts65Dn DG neurogenesis to be comparable to that of the nonenriched euploid group, while the effect on SVZ neurogenesis was reduced and seen only after prolonged exposure. These results clearly indicate that in a comprehensive stimulatory environment, the postnatal DS brain has the intrinsic capability of improving neurogenesis and gliogenesis to the levels of normal matched controls and that this cellular response underlies the cognitive improvement seen following behavioral therapies.

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