We recently completed another (rather quick!) dataset in Stall Catchers, and here I am to tell you all about it...
This time it was... the Running dataset!
What was the research question and where did it come from?
According to one of our main biomedical collaborators on this project, Oliver Bracko at the Schaffer-Nishimura Lab, the idea for this dataset originated from Stall Catchers players themselves! Several of our catchers had heard about some research studies that indicated a link between exercise and Alzheimer's, suggesting that physical activity may be beneficial for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This topic has been discussed on our forum here and here.
The highlight of one of these studies* was that you can mimic these beneficial effects by increasing the number of new neurons in the brain, which increases brain plasticity, in combination with a growth factor BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor) both acting in a region associated with cognitive function, the hippocampus.
* Choi SH, Bylykbashi E, Chatila ZK, Lee SW, Pulli B, Clemenson GD, et al. Combined adult neurogenesis and BDNF mimic exercise effects on cognition in an Alzheimer's mouse model. Science. 2018;361(6406)
Stall Catchers players asked us if we would consider testing whether these positive effects of exercise seen in patients with Alzheimer’s disease are associated with an increase in brain blood flow by reducing the number of capillary stalls.
We were very excited to perform such a study, and to see if capillary stalling is involved in this phenomenon.
One of our very talented students, Kaja Falkenhain, took the lead on these experiments. We compared Alzheimer’s disease mice that had free access to a running wheel for 3 months, to mice without a running wheel.
At the end of the 3 month period, we tested the cognitive function of all mice. What we found was very similar to other studies that have demonstrated that exercising mice display improved memory function, compared to sedentary mice.
After the first glance at the data generated by you - the players of Stall Catchers players, however, it looks like there is no difference in the number of stalled capillaries between the running and sedentary mice. We also carried out blood flow studies to measure the rate of brain blood flow in these two groups of mice, and did not discover an increase in brain blood flow in the running mice.
Overall this would suggest that the beneficial effects of exercise in Alzheimer's disease are most likely not associated with capillary stalling.
Well that's another very interesting finding, which goes into our "negative result" collection! :) These results are very important, as they help focus on the most relevant research paths, and shape the next research questions we will be asking (or not!) to understand the phenomenon of capillary stalling in Alzheimer's disease!
So THANK YOU for helping us crack yet another Alzheimer's research question! 💜
More info is coming soon on the number of vessels analyzed, research time achieved in this dataset, and individual catcher stats!