Beta-amyloid (Aβ) immunotherapy is a promising intervention to slow Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Aging dogs naturally accumulate Aβ and show cognitive decline. An active vaccine against fibrillar Aβ 1–42 (VAC) in aged beagles resulted in maintenance but not improvement of cognition along with reduced brain Aβ. Behavioral enrichment (ENR) led to cognitive benefits but no reduction in Aβ. We hypothesized cognitive outcomes could be improved by combining VAC with ENR in aged dogs. Aged dogs (11–12 years) were placed into 4 groups: (1) control/control (C/C); (2) control/VAC (C/V); (3) ENR/control (E/C); (4) ENR and VAC (E/V) and treated for 20 months. VAC decreased brain Aβ, pyroglutamate Aβ, increased CSF Aβ42 and BDNF RNA levels but also increased microhemorrhages. ENR reduced brain Aβ and prevented microhemorrhages. The combination treatment resulted in a significant maintenance of learning over time, reduced Aβ and increased BDNF mRNA despite increased microhemorrhages, however there were no benefits to memory. These results suggest that the combination of immunotherapy with behavioral enrichment leads to cognitive maintenance associated with reduced neuropathology that may benefit people with AD.

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Published in Neurobiology of Aging, v. 49, p. 86-99.

© 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

This manuscript version is made available under the CC‐BY‐NC‐ND 4.0 license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.

The document available for download is the author's post-peer-review final draft of the article.

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Research reported in this manuscript was supported by National Institutes on Health, National Institutes on Aging Grant R01AG032550 to EH. The project described was also supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, UL1TR000117 to PRD.