The coming decades will be marked by a """"""""graying"""""""" of the United States population. The most rapidly growing demographic group in the country is that of elderly persons, and within this group, that of the """"""""oldest old."""""""" These trends pose significant challenges to our current medical practice. For example, the underlying causes of age-related behavioral changes remain undetermined. This application will examine the relationship between aging and changes in functional behaviors (eating, drinking, activity) by testing the hypotheses that (1) Age-related changes in mouse functional behaviors correlate with changes in gene expression regulating inflammatory &immune mediators, and (2) Exercise &environmental enrichment improve CNS functional reserve by delaying or diminishing differential expression of genes regulating immune &inflammatory processes. We propose a cross-sectional study of young, middle-aged, &aged mice. Behaviors will be monitored using a state-of-the-art system that finely classifies large behavioral data streams in a reliable and automated fashion. Measures of overall behavior, including those of circadian rhythm, time budget, &properties (duration, frequency, etc.) of movement, feeding, and drinking bouts will be analyzed. Preliminary data finds alterations in these measures similar to those seen in aging human populations. Additionally, gene expression in the hypothalamus and frontal cortex will be assessed using microarray and QT-PCR methods. Differentially expressed gene products will be classified by gene purpose. This will allow us to test whether observed behaviors correlate with changes in genes regulating immune responses rather than genes regulating activity, movement, &ingestive behaviors. We will also use graph-theory approaches to identify specific metabolic pathways (e.g., Atf3-Mapk8-Tlr2) altered in the aging hypothalamus. We also propose a longitudinal study to test whether lifestyle modifications including exercise &environmental enrichment increase CNS functional reserve. We will use similar measures of mouse behavior &gene expression as outcomes in this study. Ultimately, we anticipate that these data will provide important insight regarding the nature of aging processes in the brain, &may suggest important genetic targets for therapeutic manipulation.
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