Category Archives: aging brain

Seniors, It’s not your ears, it’s your brain … Study

I turned 77 in January and while I generally enjoy what I consider to be robust good health, I nonetheless occupy an old and aging body. Sometimes I miss stuff people say, particularly when there is background noise.

“Could you repeat that?” The reason you may have to say something twice when talking to older family members may not be because of their hearing. Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) have determined that something is going on in the brains of typical older adults that causes them to struggle to follow speech amidst background noise, even when their hearing would be considered normal on a clinical assessment.

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In an interdisciplinary study published by the Journal of Neurophysiology, researchers Samira Anderson, Jonathan Z. Simon, and Alessandro Presacco found that adults aged 61–73 with normal hearing scored significantly worse on speech understanding in noisy environments than adults aged 18–30 with normal hearing. The researchers are all associated with the UMD’s Brain and Behavior Initiative. Continue reading

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Brain 10 times more active than previously thought – UCLA study

A new UCLA study could change scientists’ understanding of how the brain works — and could lead to new approaches for treating neurological disorders and for developing computers that “think” more like humans.

The research focused on the structure and function of dendrites, which are components of neurons, the nerve cells in the brain. Neurons are large, tree-like structures made up of a body, the soma, with numerous branches called dendrites extending outward. Somas generate brief electrical pulses called “spikes” in order to connect and communicate with each other. Scientists had generally believed that the somatic spikes activate the dendrites, which passively send currents to other neurons’ somas, but this had never been directly tested before. This process is the basis for how memories are formed and stored.

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Scientists have believed that this was dendrites’ primary role.

But the UCLA team discovered that dendrites are not just passive conduits. Their research showed that dendrites are electrically active in animals that are moving around freely, generating nearly 10 times more spikes than somas. The finding challenges the long-held belief that spikes in the soma are the primary way in which perception, learning and memory formation occur.

“Dendrites make up more than 90 percent of neural tissue,” said UCLA neurophysicist Mayank Mehta, the study’s senior author. “Knowing they are much more active than the soma fundamentally changes the nature of our understanding of how the brain computes information. It may pave the way for understanding and treating neurological disorders, and for developing brain-like computers.”

The research is reported in the March 9 issue of the journal Science.

Scientists have generally believed that dendrites meekly sent currents they received from the cell’s synapse (the junction between two neurons) to the soma, which in turn generated an electrical impulse. Those short electrical bursts, known as somatic spikes, were thought to be at the heart of neural computation and learning. But the new study demonstrated that dendrites generate their own spikes 10 times more often than the somas.

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Researchers Uncover New Agents That Eliminate Cells Tied to Age-Related Diseases – Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic researchers have uncovered three new agents to add to the emerging repertoire of drugs that aim to delay the onset of aging by targeting senescent cells – cells that contribute to frailty and other age-related conditions. A recent study of human cell cultures shows that the drugs, fisetin and two BCL-XL inhibitors – A1331852 and A1155463 – cleared senescent cells in vitro. Findings appear online in Aging.

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“Senescent cells accumulate with age and at sites of multiple chronic conditions, such as in fat tissue in diabetes, the lungs in chronic pulmonary diseases, the aorta in vascular disease, or the joints in osteoarthritis,” says James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging. “At Mayo Clinic, we discovered the first senolytic drugs – agents that selectively eliminate senescent cells while leaving normal cells unaffected. These senolytic agents alleviated a range of age- and disease-related problems in mice. We used the hypothesis-driven approach that we used to discover the first senolytic drugs, two published in early 2015 and another later in 2015, to discover these three new senolytic drugs.” Continue reading

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Exercise can boost your memory and thinking skills

Eat less; move more; live longer. That is the mantra of this blog. moving more keeps the organic machines we know as our bodies in tip top shape. As it turns out exercise is also good for the old cabeza.

Moderate-intensity exercise can help improve your thinking and memory in just six months.

You probably already know that exercising is necessary to preserve muscle strength, keep your heart strong, maintain a healthy body weight, and stave off chronic diseases such as diabetes. But exercise can also help boost your thinking skills. “There’s a lot of science behind this,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.

Exercise boosts your memory and thinking skills both directly and indirectly. It acts directly on the body by stimulating physiological changes such as reductions in insulin resistance and inflammation, along with encouraging production of growth factors — chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance, survival, and overall health of new brain cells.

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It also acts directly on the brain itself. Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are larger in volume in people who exercise than in people who don’t. “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says Dr. McGinnis. Continue reading

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Can exercise help people at risk for Alzheimer’s – Study

One of the main goals in living longer is having one’s brain fully functional. Since I have both Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family tree, I am totally focused on keeping my brain working. There is no question that exercise can help one defend against dementia, but with Alzheimer’s the jury is still out.

Can exercise slow or prevent cognitive decline in older people who are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease? A new clinical trial led by National Institute on Aging (NIA) -supported scientists in collaboration with the YMCA aims to find out whether exercise may be an effective nondrug treatment for staying cognitively fit.

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The trial, called EXERT, will enroll 300 people, age 65 to 89, with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition of mild memory problems that often leads to Alzheimer’s dementia. Based on the trial’s results, the researchers hope to develop an evidence-based “prescription” that will tell people the type and frequency of exercise needed to support memory and thinking skills.

“We want to design a real-life program that can be implemented in the community and prescribed by healthcare providers,” said Laura D. Baker, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., who is leading the study with Carl W. Cotman, Ph.D., of the University of California, Irvine.

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Delirium could accelerate dementia-related mental decline

It ain’t easy being green, according to Kermit. Turns out it ain’t so easy being old either.

New research by UCL and University of Cambridge shows delirium may have long-lasting consequences, including accelerating the dementia process

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When hospitalized, people can become acutely confused and disorientated. This condition, known as delirium, affects a quarter of older patients and new research by UCL and University of Cambridge shows it may have long-lasting consequences, including accelerating the dementia process.

The study, published today in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, is the first to show the multiplying effects of delirium and dementia in these patients.

Episodes of delirium in people who are not known to have dementia, might also reveal dementia at its earliest stages, the research found.

While both delirium and dementia are important factors in cognitive decline among the elderly, delirium is preventable and treatable through dedicated geriatric care.

Further research is needed to understand exactly how delirium interacts with dementia, and how this could be blocked.

“If delirium is causing brain injury in the short and long-term, then we must increase our efforts to diagnose, prevent and treat delirium. Ultimately, targeting delirium could be a chance to delay or reduce dementia” said Dr. Daniel Davis (MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL), who led the research while at the University of Cambridge.

Scientists looked at three European populations – in Finland, Cambridge and UK-wide – and examined brain specimens in 987 people aged 65 and older. Each person’s memory, thinking and experience of delirium had been recorded over 10 years towards the end of their life.

When these were linked with pathology abnormalities due to Alzheimer’s and other dementias, those with both delirium and dementia-changes had the most severe change in memory.

Dr Davis added: “Unfortunately, most delirium goes unrecognized. In busy hospitals, a sudden change in confusion not be noticed by hospital staff. Patients can be transferred several times and staff often switch over – it requires everyone to ‘think delirium’ and identify that a patient’s brain function has changed.”

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Tips on sharpening your brain – WebMD

I write about exercise almost daily and about the brain nearly as often, but I think they really need to be tied together for the best understanding. Also, because we all want to live past 100, we certainly want the old cabeza to fully functional.

WebMD has a nice 12 part slide show  called Tips to stay smart, sharp and focused. If you want to experience the entire show, just click the link above. I am have picked out a few examples for the folks too lazy busy to do the whole thing right now.

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Number one is superb: USE YOUR BRAIN  “It’s true: Use it or lose it. Stretching your brain keeps your mind sharp. People who are more active in mentally challenging activities are more likely to stay sharp. Try these:
•    Read a book.
•    Go to a lecture.
•    Listen to the radio.
•    Play a game.
•    Visit a museum.
•    Learn a second language.”
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Seniors need to get out of that comfort zone – NYT

I have written several posts on why people are discounting in the mainstream media regarding their second rate and slanted coverage of Donald Trump and the recent election. However, I want to point out that this piece from the New York Times is superb reporting. So, the grey lady lives on.

The article was How to become a Superager by Lisa Feldman Barrett. She is the author of the forthcoming “How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain.”

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She asks, “Why do some older people remain mentally nimble while others decline? “Superagers” (a term coined by the neurologist Marsel Mesulam) are those whose memory and attention isn’t merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25-year-olds. ”

In providing the answer, she gets into some labyrinthine details on how the brain functions. If you want to go there just click on the link to the article and enjoy. Continue reading

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Get the jump on Alzheimer’s and dementia – Rush

Regular readers know that because I have lost three family members to Alzheimer’s and dementia I have a serious interest in keeping myself safe. And, by extension, you. This isn’t just for seniors.

Rush Medical Center has some very  useful suggestions on the subject.

Do you have the power to prevent Alzheimer’s disease? Although some risk factors — age and family history — are beyond your control, increasing evidence from research indicates that you aren’t helpless.

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Researchers from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and around the world have found that certain lifestyle choices can protect your brain against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Incorporate the following activities into your life, and your brain could reap the benefits Continue reading

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Bad habits that can hurt your brain – WebMD

I  write often about the benefits the brain gets from exercise and how we should make regular exercise a priority as much for our mental health as physical. That is a good positive target.

It turns out that WebMD also has some excellent suggestions for keeping our brains clicking on all cylinders, but they approach from the negative side. Not doing harmful things is also an important consideration in getting to old age with a fully functional brain.

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Here is their list of bad habits:

Missing out on sleep. WebMD notes, “… lack of sleep may be a cause of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. It’s best to have regular sleeping hours. If you have trouble with sleep, avoid alcohol, caffeine, and electronics in the evening, and start a soothing bedtime ritual.”

I would like to interject here that my Page on How important is a good night’s sleep could be worth checking into. Continue reading

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Seniors’ brains benefit from distraction – Study

While I want to live past 100, I also want to have my brain fully functional. So, any piece of information that satisfies that criterion, is music to my ears.

As you age, you may find it more difficult to focus on certain tasks. But while distractions can be frustrating, they may not be as bad as we think. In a review published November 15 in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, researchers at the University of Toronto and Harvard University suggest that there may be some benefits to reduced focus, especially in people over 50. Using behavioral studies and neuroimaging evidence, the researchers discuss how being easily distracted can help adults with, for example, problem solving and learning new information.

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“Different types of tasks benefit from a more broad focus of attention, and this is usually seen in tasks that involve thinking creatively or using information that was previously irrelevant,” says first author Tarek Amer, a psychology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto and a graduate student at the Rotman Research Institute. “The literature gives us the impression that older adults are essentially doomed as their cognitive abilities decrease, when, in reality, many older adults get along just fine in their day-to-day lives, and we think that shows that aging adults don’t always need to have high cognitive control.”

When people have high cognitive control, they are able to maintain their focused attention and ignore distractions to get things done. But Amer and his colleagues found that people with reduced cognitive control had an easier time thinking of creative solutions to problems, and they were better at noticing patterns in the world around them. These findings also indicated that older adults could outperform their younger counterparts on certain problem-solving tasks, as they were able to broaden their attention more easily. Additionally, people didn’t require high levels of cognitive control for inherent, day-to-day tasks, like walking down the street or learning new information.

In order to explore the benefits of cognitive control, many lab-based behavioral experiments require participants to complete a specific set of tasks, limiting the role of distraction. But the researchers say these experiments have shortcomings, as they don’t explore situations when distractions and reduced cognitive control could be helpful, making the conclusions fairly one sided.

“Many of the tasks that we study in classic cognitive psychology are tasks that require high cognitive control, but these assigned tasks might not accurately mirror what people do in the real world because they limit distractions,” says co-author Lynn Hasher, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and the Rotman Research Institute. “But a distraction in one setting can actually be useful information in another setting, and the more information you have, the better able you’re going to be to address a current problem.”

Amer and his colleagues hope to use this information to determine exactly what tasks can benefit from reduced control in order to better simulate these experiences in a lab. Although they also hope to expand the research beyond the aging population to examine how distractions can be beneficial for people with a range of cognitive impairments, for now they recognize that this understanding of cognitive control is a step closer to understanding the aging brain.

“There is a question about what really sustains performance in old age, and it’s clear that working memory alone cannot provide us with the answer to that question,” says Hasher. “But we think it’s possible that studying reduced cognitive control can help us understand how older adults can still perform independently and successfully in their lives.”

While it is gratifying to learn that some slippage in our mental acuity is not necessarily harmful, it is also crucial that we keep are mental ‘hardware’ in toptop shape. Please check out my Page -While it is gratifying to learn that some slippage in our mental acuity is not necessarily harmful, it is also crucial that we keep are mental ‘hardware’ in toptop shape. Please check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for more.

Tony

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11 Ways Men And Women Think Differently

I will be 77 years old next month. Have had two marriages each of which lasted 11-1/2 years. I have fathered two daughters. My current relationship is in its fourth year and I am still not sure I have a clue about women. I learned a lot from this post. Hope you will, too.

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Tony

Our Better Health

Men and women are different. There are some good biological reasons for that. Studies of brain scans of men and women show that women tend to use both sides of their brain because they have a larger corpus callosum. This is the bridge between the two hemispheres of the brain and allows women to share information between those two halves of the brain faster than men. Men tend to use the left side of the brain which is the more logical and rational side of the brain. Scans also reveal other interesting ways in which men and women do things differently or process information differently from each other.

HERE ARE 11 WAYS MEN AND WOMEN THINK DIFFERENTLY:

1. PERCEPTION
Women have smaller brains that are more tightly packed with connections. This allows them to perform better at tasks involving the bigger picture and situational thinking. A man’s brain tends to…

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Crawling has excellent physical benefits

I am now in my seventh year of writing this blog and I pretty much learn something new every day about living a healthy life because I read about the subject constantly. Nonetheless, I was amazed to learn that crawling is a serious form of exercise with excellent benefits to both the body and brain.

I have written repeatedly that walking is the Cinderella of the exercise world in that its physical benefits are almost totally unappreciated. I’m not sure what to call crawling, that’s right, the same thing that babies do before they are able to walk. I was not even aware that crawling was in the exercise world. I was ignorant.

 

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The Health Science Journal says, “Crawling is an important functional milestone as it strengthens the muscles and connective tissues in and around the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, spine and hips. Furthermore, this weight-bearing quadruped motion also helps to stretch the hand ligaments, facilitating the development of the arches. Crawling also opens up the saddle joint at the base of the thumb – essential for being able to perform fine motor skills like holding cutlery, pens and pencils.

“In adulthood, the increasing prevalence of sedentary lifestyles results in many of the deep stabilizing muscles becoming weak and ineffective at performing their functional role. Muscles and connective tissues weaken, posture changes and instability, dysfunction, tightness and pain usually follow, particularly during physical exertion.

“This is why crawling exercises are as effective in adults as they are in infants and can help restore the optimal musculoskeletal health that has occurred as a result of a sustained period of inactivity.”(my emphasis)

This is from The Breaking Muscle website, “Yes, crawling, a seemingly childish and foolish “exercise,” could be the one thing that improves your health, your strength, your mobility, and your performance in any athletic area. It could even improve your ability to think, focus, and reason.

“Crawling is a developmental movement pattern that ties everything about you together. In developing children, crawling activates and integrates the different parts of the brain. Through crawling, neural connections and pathways are established in the brain that allow the brain to become more efficient at communication between the left and right hemispheres. The better the brain can communicate and process information, the better the body moves.1 Crawling also unites your sensory systems. It integrates your vestibular system (your balance system), your proprioceptive system (your sense of self in space, or your self awareness system), and your visual system (your visual system). It can even improve your hand eye coordination.”

Here is a You Tube video on it:

I don’t know about you, but I am going to start crawling today.

Tony

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5 Ways to keep your memory sharp – Harvard

Regular readers know that I am a senior citizen; will be 77 in January. So, I have a lot of senior friends. We have all experienced ‘senior moments’ when we find our memory becoming slightly elusive. Because my family has had Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia I am particularly sensitive to any brain stuff. So I was impressed with the suggestions that Harvard brought forward regarding enhancing our memory.

The way you live, what you eat and drink, and how you treat your body can affect your memory just as much as your physical health and well-being. Here are five things you can do every day to keep both your mind and body sharp.

1. Manage your stress. The constant drumbeat of daily stresses such as deadline pressures or petty arguments can certainly distract you and affect your ability to focus and recall. But the bigger problem is an ongoing sense of anxiety — that can lead to memory impairment. If you don’t have a strategy in place for managing your stress, protecting your memory is one reason to get one. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and a “mindful” approach to living can all help.

I have posted a number of times on stress. You can find them by searching s t r e s s in the box at the right. If you want one excellent example check out: Super tools for handling stress.

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How Cardiovascular Exercise Helps the Brain

In view of Thanksgiving being right around the corner and holiday parties soon after, I thought it propitious to show you this again.

Tony

One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100

With Thanksgiving looming, this is a great time to reaffirm our resolve to exercise regularly. OR, it is the ideal time to resolve to exercise regularly in the coming year and maybe begin to address physical and weight problems that we have neglected.

Regular readers know that I have posted numerous times on the value of exercise not only for our bodies, but also for our brains. On the top of this page is IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT YOUR BRAIN.

If you click on that link you can find a page full of blog posts on the subject.

Our ancestors engaged in some serious cardio exercise just to get food. Our ancestors engaged in some serious cardio exercise just to get food.

And now, the New York Times joins in the fray with Gretchen Reynolds’s article Exercise and the Ever-Smarter Human Brain.

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80-year old reshaping views of aging in China

In this blog devoted to living a long healthy life with a fully functional brain at the end, I just had to share this news item on “China’s hottest grandpa.”

Here is a link to the article in today’s New York Times.

I never thought I would be offering you a video with Chinese as the spoken language, but there is a sub-titled translation below it and you will have a chance to meet the sparkling Mr. Deshun for yourself.

“Determined to avoid mental and physical stagnation, Mr. Wang has explored new skills and ideas while devoting ample time to daily exercise. Last year, he walked the runway for the first time, his physique causing a national sensation. He takes obvious joy in subverting China’s image of what it means to be old,” Didi Kirsten Tatlow wrote in the Times.

I was not aware that old age in China begins relatively early. “The legal retirement age for women is 50 for workers and 55 for civil servants, and 60 for most men.”

Besides his healthy mental outlook, he carries on his avid interest in swimming managing a half mile a day. (my emphasis)

He says that he is not picky about food. He eats whatever he wants. Clearly, he is making good choices to be in such wonderful condition.

Tony

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