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Aging (Albany NY). 2018 Jul 20;10(7):1698-1721. doi: 10.18632/aging.101502.

Implementation of environmental enrichment after middle age promotes healthy aging.

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Department of Cancer Biology and Genetics, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.
Contributed equally


With increases in life expectancy, it is vital to understand the dynamics of aging, their interaction with lifestyle factors, and the connections to age-related disease processes. Our work on environmental enrichment (EE), a housing environment boosting mental health, has revealed a novel anticancer and anti-obesity phenotype mediated by a brain-fat axis: the hypothalamic-sympathoneural-adipocyte (HSA) axis in young animals. Here we investigated EE effects on healthspan and lifespan when initiated after middle age. Short-term EE for six weeks activated the HSA axis in 10-month-old mice. Long-term EE for twelve months reduced adiposity, improved glucose tolerance, decreased leptin levels, enhanced motor abilities, and inhibited anxiety. In addition to adipose remodeling, EE decreased age-related liver steatosis, reduced hepatic glucose production, and increased glucose uptake by liver and adipose tissue contributing to the improved glycemic control. The EE-induced liver modulation was associated with a suppression of protein kinase Cε. Moreover, EE down-regulated the expression of inflammatory genes in the brain, adipose, and liver. EE initiated at 18-month of age significantly improved glycemic control and showed a trend of positive impact on mean lifespan. These data suggest that EE induces metabolic and behavioral adaptations that are shared by factors known to increase healthspan and lifespan.


BDNF; adipose tissue; aging; environmental enrichment; glucose tolerance; steatosis

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