The mouse model is the most often used to understand the causes, mechanisms, modes of recovery, and most effective treatments for traumatic brain injury (TBI) in humans. Using mice instead of humans spares humans from potentially destructive injury, and the brains of mice are so remarkably similar to those of humans that lessons learned from experiments on mice can be applied to humans.
Fifteen percent of people affected by mild TBI have difficult, prolonged, and incomplete recoveries. What can be done to help them? Recently Prof. Chagi Pick of Tel Aviv University’s Sagol School of Neuroscience performed an experiment on two groups of mice given the mouse equivalent of a human mild TBI. The results were published in the Nov. 2014 issue of Behavioral Brain Research. What Prof. Pick found was that the control group of mice who were left in normal cages recovered poorly. However, the test group that were put in cages with highly enriched environments fully recovered their cognitive abilities in six weeks. For mice enrichment means exposure to lots of sensory stimuli, open spaces to roam in, and plenty of opportunity to eat and exercise. For humans Prof. Pick says an enriched environment would include such things as prolonged and intensive physical activity, possibly combined with intensive cognitive stimulation. “Through proper exercise, stimuli, and diet, we can improve a patient’s condition,” he said.