The muscarinic receptor response to acetylcholine regulates the hippocampal-related learning, memory, neural plasticity and the production and processing of the pro-nerve growth factor (proNGF) by hippocampal cells. The development and progression of diabetes generate a mild cognitive impairment reducing the functions of the septo-hippocampal cholinergic circuitry, depressing neural plasticity and inducing proNGF accumulation in the brain. Here we demonstrate, in a rat model of early type-1 diabetes, that a physical therapy, the electroacupuncture, counteracts the diabetes-induced deleterious effects on hippocampal physiology by ameliorating hippocampal-related memory functions; recovering the impaired long-term potentiation at the dentate gyrus (DG-LTP) and the lowered expression of the vesicular glutamate transporter 1; normalizing the activity-dependent release of proNGF in diabetic rat hippocampus. Electroacupuncture exerted its therapeutic effects by regulating the expression and activity of M1- and M2-acetylcholine muscarinic receptors subtypes in the dentate gyrus of hippocampus. Our results suggest that a physical therapy based on repetitive sensory stimulation could promote hippocampal neural activity, neuronal metabolism and functions, and conceivably improve the diabetes-induced cognitive impairment. Our data can support the setup of therapeutic protocols based on a better integration between physical therapies and pharmacology for the cure of diabetes-associated neurodegeneration and possibly for Alzheimer's disease.
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