Our first research study involved 48 old and 17 young beagle dogs. Earlier research had established that dogs show marked age-dependent decline in learning and memory, and that the pattern of cognitive decline mirrors that seen in humans in several respects. Aged dogs also develop neuropathology that is similar to that seen in both successfully ageing humans and patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
In this study, researchers wanted to obtain longitudinal data of age-dependent decline in learning ability. They also wanted to assess the effectiveness of two interventions in counter acting age-dependent decline: behavioural enrichment and a maintenance food fortified with a broad spectrum of antioxidants and mitochondrial cofactors.
What they found
The study showed that both discrimination and reversal learning ability decline progressively with advanced age in beagle dogs, but that the rate of decline can be delayed by both behavioural enrichment and antioxidant supplementation. Possibly the most important outcome of this study was the demonstration that the behavioural enrichment and the antioxidant supplementation condition combined were more effective than either alone.
Dietary fortiﬁcation had signiﬁcant beneﬁcial effects after a short time frame among animals provided with behavioural enrichment, but the fortiﬁed food on its own, remains an effective therapeutic after two years of treatment. It’s worth noting that The Einstein also includes ginkgo, the use of which is based on another research study. However, given the importance of enrichment activities noted here, we will provide a guide to simple enrichment activities, on our blog.
Milgram, N.W. & Head, Elizabeth & Zicker, S.C. & Ikeda-Douglas, H Murphey, B Muggenburg, B & Siwak, C & Tapp, Philip & Cotman, C.W.. (2005). Learning ability in aged beagle dogs is preserved by behavioral enrichment and dietary fortification: A two-year longitudinal study. Neurobiology of aging. 26. 77-90. 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2004.02.014.