Category Archives: aging brain

Drawing is Better than Writing for Memory Retention – Study

Regular readers know that I am a senior citizen, turning 79 next month. My family has a history of dementia in general and Alzheimer’s Disease in particular. SO, I am interested in anything that affects the brain and relates to brain function. This study at the University of Waterloo captured my attention.

Researchers report older adults who take up drawing are better able to retain new information than those who write notes.Source: University of Waterloo.

Older adults who take up drawing could enhance their memory, according to a new study.

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As part of a series of studies, the researchers asked both young people and older adults to do a variety of memory-encoding techniques and then tested their recall. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo found that even if people weren’t good at it, drawing, as a method to help retain new information, was better than re-writing notes, visualization exercises or passively looking at images. Continue reading

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Yoga breathing exercises can sharpen your mind – Study

Breath-focused meditation and yogic breathing practices have numerous known cognitive benefits, including increased ability to focus, decreased mind wandering, improved arousal levels, more positive emotions, decreased emotional reactivity, along with many others. To date, however, no direct neurophysiological link between respiration and cognition has been suggested.

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The research shows for the first time that breathing – a key element of meditation and mindfulness practices – directly affects the levels of a natural chemical messenger in the brain called noradrenaline. This chemical messenger is released when we are challenged, curious, exercised, focused or emotionally aroused, and, if produced at the right levels, helps the brain grow new connections, like a brain fertilizer. The way we breathe, in other words, directly affects the chemistry of our brains in a way that can enhance our attention and improve our brain health.

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Study Finds Biases in Widely Used Dementia Identification Tests

Dementia can be a real snake lurking in the brain of seniors who happen to be our loved ones. Is their memory merely slipping with their added years, or do they really have a cognitive impairment? It’s a tough question for many families. As a member of a family with several instances of dementia, I can attest to that.

Quick tests used in primary care settings to identify whether people are likely to have dementia may often be wrong, according to a study published in the November 28, 2018, online issue of Neurology® Clinical Practice, an official journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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The tests, called brief cognitive assessments, evaluate thinking and memory skills. They help doctors decide who may benefit from a full diagnostic assessment for dementia. The three tests examined in this study were the Mini-Mental State Examination, which looks at orientation to time and place and the ability to remember words, the Memory Impairment Screen, which focuses on the ability to remember words, and Animal Naming, which involves naming as many animals as possible in 60 seconds. Continue reading

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Guidelines for feeling good and functioning well into senior years – GCBH

I just ran across this newly-published set of guidelines for helping seniors succeed in retaining their mental function and well-being as they age. As a senior myself who has a family with a history of Alzheimer’s and dementia I found it to be on point with my own situation.

The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) is an independent collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars, and policy experts from around the world who are working in areas of brain health related to human cognition. The GCBH focuses on brain health relating to people’s ability to think and reason as they age, including aspects of memory, perception and judgment.

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We believe the following suggestions will increase the chances for people to experience or optimize mental well-being. If you are already engaging in these healthy activities, continue to do so, and consider trying something new as well.

FOR INDIVIDUALS:

1. Take the time to develop and strengthen relationships with family and friends. For more about the brain health benefits of strong social ties, see the GCBH report, The Brain and Social Connectedness: GCBH Recommendations on Social Engagement and Brain Health.

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Eyes provide new lens for Alzheimer’s screening

At the risk of repeating myself I have a strong interest in any form of dementia and especially Alzheimer’s Disease as I have had at least three close family members succumb – and I am a senior citizen.  the folowing is from the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Alzheimer’s disease is difficult to diagnose as well as treat,  but researchers now have a promising new screening tool using the window to the brain:  the eye.

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A study of 3,877 randomly selected patients found a significant link between three degenerative eye diseases – age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma – and Alzheimer’s disease.

The results offer physicians a new way to detect  those at higher risk of this disorder, which causes memory loss and other symptoms of cognitive decline. Continue reading

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Program of personalized physical exercise reverses functional decline in the over-75s

Eat less; move more; live longer. It works every time. Here is more good news. This time from a program specifically for very seniors – over 75s.

A program of personalized physical exercise implemented over a three-year period and involving 370 people over the age of 75 admitted to the Geriatric Service of the Hospital Complex of Navarre (CHN) has turned out to be “safe and effective” in reversing the functional deterioration associated with hospitalization to which patients in this age group are subjected. Other aspects such as cognitive status and life quality also benefited.

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This is the conclusion of a research project coordinated by Nicolás Martínez-Velilla and Mikel Izquierdo-Redín, researchers at Navarrabiomed, the biomedical research centre of the Government of Navarre and the Public University of Navarre (NUP/UPNA); its results have just been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Internal Medicine).

These findings open up the possibility of medical hospitalization units changing their traditional paradigm to focus on functional status as a clinical sign that may be negatively affected by traditional hospitalization classically based on bed rest. Continue reading

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Meditation and Music May Alter Blood Markers of Cellular Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease in Adults with Early Memory Loss

A research team led by Dr. Kim Innes, a professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health, has found that a simple meditation or music listening program may alter certain biomarkers of cellular aging and Alzheimer’s Disease in older adults who are experiencing memory loss. Study findings, reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, also suggest these changes may be directly related to improvements in memory and cognition, sleep, mood, and quality of life.

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Sixty older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD), a condition that may represent a preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, participated in the randomized, clinical trial. While SCD has been linked to increased risk for dementia and associated with certain neuropathological changes implicated in Alzheimer’s disease development, including elevated brain levels of beta amyloid, this preclinical period may also provide a critical window for therapeutic intervention.

In this trial, each participant was randomly assigned to either a beginner meditation (Kirtan Kriya) or music listening program and asked to practice 12 minutes/day for 12 weeks. At baseline and 3 months, blood samples were collected. Two markers of cellular aging were measured: telomere length and telomerase activity. (Telomeres serve as protective caps on chromosomes; telomerase is an enzyme responsible for maintaining telomere length). Blood levels of specific beta-amyloid peptides commonly linked to Alzheimer’s Disease were also assessed. In addition, memory and cognitive function, stress, sleep, mood, and quality of life were measured. All participants were followed for a total of 6 months. Continue reading

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Alzheimer’s Genetically Linked to Cardiovascular Disease – Study

Studying DNA from more than 1.5 million people, an international team of researchers — led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of California, San Francisco — has identified points of DNA that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and also heighten the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, according to an article in Neuroscience News.

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Scientists have long been aware of connections between variations of the APOE gene, which is involved in cholesterol and lipid metabolism, and Alzheimer’s disease. That gene is known to double the risk for Alzheimer’s disease in some patients and increase risk by up to 12 times in others. But in the new study, the researchers identified other DNA points that also appear to be involved both in cardiovascular disease risk and the risk for Alzheimer’s. Continue reading

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Exercise and be happy – Infographic

I have written so many times about the benefits of exercise on the body and brain that this almost seems repetitious. On the other hand, it is nice to see the exact hormones at work.

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On the off chance that you are not familiar with it, please check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – (and exercise benefits.)

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How coffee protects the brain

I am guilty of being a coffee lover. I am so bad that when I see someone on TV carrying a cardboard cup of the brew, I am tempted to make some for myself. So, the following was good news for me.

Scientists have now proved that drinking certain types of coffee can be beneficial to brain health, but how does this popular brew support cognitive function? A new study identifies some of the mechanisms that allow coffee to keep mental decline at bay.

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According to data from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, about 54 percent of all adults in the United States drink coffee on a daily basis.

While drinking coffee can bring both benefits and risks for a person’s health, a 2016 study from the University of Ulster in Coleraine, United Kingdom, concluded that the health benefits of moderate coffee consumption “clearly outweigh” the potential risks.

One of these benefits is that coffee seems to protect the brain against cognitive impairments and boost thinking skills. Continue reading

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Cognitive stress test can show high level of beta-amyloid

We are eating less; moving more and hopefully living longer, but it is imperative that we have a fully functioning brain or our work will be in vain.

A simple and inexpensive word recall test accurately predicted whether people had elevated brain levels of beta-amyloid. Scientists hope this non-invasive stress test that puts pressure on memory–similar to how an exercise stress test checks cardiovascular health–could help identify subtle signs of cognitive impairment that may have previously been missed by standard memory tests.

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An NIA-supported team of researchers led by Dr. David Loewenstein of the Center for Cognitive Neurosciences and Aging and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine developed the Loewenstein-Acevedo Scales for Semantic Interference and Learning (LASSI-L) test. Their preliminary findings were published in the September 4, 2018 issue of Neurology.

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AI Could Soon Predict Cognitive Decline Leading to Alzheimer’s Disease – Study

A team of scientists has successfully trained a new artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm to make accurate predictions regarding cognitive decline leading to Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Mallar Chakravarty, a computational neuroscientist at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, and his colleagues from the University of Toronto and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, designed an algorithm that learns signatures from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), genetics, and clinical data. This specific algorithm can help predict whether an individual’s cognitive faculties are likely to deteriorate towards Alzheimer’s in the next five years.

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“At the moment, there are limited ways to treat Alzheimer’s and the best evidence we have is for prevention. Our AI methodology could have significant implications as a ‘doctor’s assistant’ that would help stream people onto the right pathway for treatment. For example, one could even initiate lifestyle changes that may delay the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or even prevent it altogether,” says Chakravarty, an Assistant Professor in McGill University’s Department of Psychiatry. Continue reading

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The brain diet – Study

Scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) have uncovered mechanisms by which high levels of a hormone called FGF23 can reduce brain health.

In results published in the journal PLoS ONE, high levels of fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) were associated with structural changes in the brain’s frontal lobes. High FGF23 levels are thought to lead to the vascular calcification seen in patients with chronic kidney disease. The study showed that such a process may also affect the brain in patients without chronic kidney disease but with elevated cardiovascular risk factors, according to Leonardo Bonilha, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology in the MUSC Department of Medicine and director of the study.

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“We found that there is a relationship between high levels of FGF23 and a form of structural compromise in the brain,” said Bonilha.

FGF23 is produced in the bone. Normally, FGF23 works in the kidneys and the gut to regulate levels of calcium and phosphate in the body. It is thought to be increased in people who eat a diet high in phosphates, which are often found in foods with preservatives. In people with chronic kidney disease or in those who consume a diet high in phosphates, can be a calcification of their arteries, which can cause heart attack or stroke. FGF23 may be the reason. Continue reading

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Even mild physical activity immediately improves memory function, study finds

As a senior, I consider this to be very good news.

People who include a little yoga or tai chi in their day may be more likely to remember where they put their keys. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and Japan’s University of Tsukuba found that even very light workouts can increase the connectivity between parts of the brain responsible for memory formation and storage.

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In a study of 36 healthy young adults, the researchers discovered that a single 10-minute period of mild exertion can yield considerable cognitive benefits. Using high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging, the team examined subjects’ brains shortly after exercise sessions and saw better connectivity between the hippocampal dentate gyrus and cortical areas linked to detailed memory processing.

Their results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Continue reading

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Air pollution may be related to heightened dementia risk – Study

British researchers found that people exposed to increased levels of air pollution had 40 percent higher chances of developing dementia.

Air pollution is an established risk factor for heart disease/stroke and respiratory disease, but its potential role in neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia, isn’t as clear.

The researchers used carefully calculated estimates of air and noise pollution across Greater London to assess potential links with new dementia diagnoses.

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They looked at patient data on 131,000 Londoners aged 50 to 79, and based on their residential postcodes, the researchers estimated their yearly exposure to air pollutants. These were specifically nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter and ozone, as well as proximity to heavy traffic and road noise, using modelling methods validated with recorded measurements. Continue reading

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About that aging brain …

They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but new research shows you can teach an old rat new sounds, even if the lesson doesn’t stick very long.

For the record I wrote a post on that damaging cliche about teaching old dogs new tricks. You can read it here – Of cats and dogs and cliches ….

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) of McGill University examined the effects of aging on neuroplasticity in the primary auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes auditory information. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to modify its connections and function in response to environmental demands, an important process in learning.

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Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. As we grow older, plasticity decreases to stabilize what we have already learned. This stabilization is partly controlled by a neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits neuronal activity. This role of GABA was discovered by K.A.C. Elliot and Ernst Florey at The Neuro in 1956. Continue reading

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