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.
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.
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.
“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
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.
“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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
I feel very strongly about smoking. This is one of those Captain Obvious things to me. It astounds me that anyone who can read will continue to smoke.
The following is excerpted from my Page – How many ways does smoking harm you? Check it out for chapter and verse on the multi-faceted damage that smoking does to your body.
Tobacco use is the single largest cause of preventable cause of death in the United States.
On average people who smoke die about 10 years sooner than non-smokers. The New England Journal of Medicine.
Smoking triples the risk for cataracts and is also a risk factor for macular degeneration and its response to treatment. Dr. Nicholas Volpe, Tarry Professor and Chairman Department of Opthalmology Feinberg School of Medicine Northwestern University
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2014 about 224,000 new cases of lung cancer and 159,260 cancer deaths caused by tobacco use. The overall survival rate for those with lung cancer, sadly, remains at around 15%. You have less than one chance in six of surviving. Continue reading
You don’t have to be a senior to suffer from cognitive impairment. Here are some hopefully helpful hints for self-assessment from the Alzheimer’s Association.
With three cases of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia in my family I have serious interest in all variations of cognitive impairment. Hence, this latest work from Washington University School of Medicine.
It may be possible in the future to screen patients for Alzheimer’s disease using an eye exam.
Using technology similar to what is found in many eye doctors’ offices, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have detected evidence suggesting Alzheimer’s in older patients who had no symptoms of the disease.
Their study, involving 30 patients, is published Aug. 23 in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology. Continue reading
One of my favorite (and most popular) posts is Exercise, Aging and the Brain. I wrote it in 2011 and more than 11,000 people have read it. Because of Alzheimer’s and dementia residing in my immediate family, I am very interested in the brain and anything that affects it. So, this study from Medical Express hit me right where I live.
In the largest known brain imaging study, scientists from Amen Clinics (Costa Mesa, CA), Google, John’s Hopkins University, University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco evaluated 62,454 brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans of more than 30,000 individuals from 9 months old to 105 years of age to investigate factors that accelerate brain aging. SPECT tomography) evaluates regional cerebral blood flow in the brain that is reduced in various disorders.
Lead author, psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, MD, founder of Amen Clinics, commented, “Based on one of the largest brain imaging studies ever done, we can now track common disorders and behaviors that prematurely age the brain. Better treatment of these disorders can slow or even halt the process of brain aging. The cannabis abuse finding was especially important, as our culture is starting to see marijuana as an innocuous substance. This study should give us pause about it.” Continue reading
Reduced levels of plasmalogens—a class of lipids created in the liver that are integral to cell membranes in the brain—are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, according to new research presented this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2018 by Mitchel A. Kling, MD, an associate professor of Psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Plasmalogens are created in the liver and are dispersed through the blood stream in the form of lipoproteins, which also transport cholesterol and other lipids to and from cells and tissues throughout the body, including the brain. Kling, and the multi-institutional Alzheimer’s Disease Metabolomics Consortium led by Rima F. Kaddurah-Daouk, PhD, at Duke University School of Medicine, developed three indices for measuring the amount of these lipids related to cognition, in order to identify whether reduced levels in the bloodstream are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), overall cognitive function, and/or other biomarkers of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease. The three indices measured: the ratios of plasmalogens to each other; the ratios of plasmalogens to their closely-related, more conventional lipid counterparts; and a combination of these two quantities. Continue reading
I confess, I am blown away by the brain. I took a course in it from The Great Courses and have published a number of posts on it. The direct connection between physical exercise and the brain never ceases to amaze me. You can check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – (and exercise benefits) to read more.
The older you get, the less apt you may be to recognize that you’ve made an error. As a senior citizen I find that statement slightly annoying and also probably to a large extent true.
In a new study, University of Iowa researchers devised a simple, computerized test to gauge how readily young adults and older adults realize when they’ve made a mistake.
Older adults performed just as well as younger adults in tests involving looking away from an object appearing on the screen. But younger adults acknowledged more often than older adults when they failed to look away from the object. And, older adults were more likely to be adamant that they did not made a mistake.
The research offers new insight how older people perceive their decisions, and especially how they view their performance–whether judging their own ability to drive or how regularly they believe they’ve taken medications.
“The good news is older adults perform the tasks we assigned them just as well as younger adults, albeit more slowly,” says Jan Wessel, assistant professor in the UI Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and the study’s corresponding author. “But we find there is this impaired ability in older adults to recognize an error when they’ve made one.” Continue reading
Eat less; move more; live longer. It’s never too late to start.
Exercising regularly throughout life is the best way to keep your heart healthy. But starting to exercise even in late middle age may lessen the risk of heart failure, according to a report in the May 15 issue of Circulation. Heart failure, a gradual decline in the heart’s ability to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, affects about 6.5 million people in the United States.
The study involved more than 11,000 people who were part of a long-running project begun in the late 1980s, the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Every six years, participants got medical testing and filled out questionnaires about their physical activity.
People who followed federal recommendations for physical activity (see How much physical activity do you need?) for the first 12 years of the study had the lowest risk of heart failure—31% lower than people who didn’t exercise at all. But people who increased their physical activity levels starting around age 60 over a period of just six years lowered their risk by 12%.
I have written repeatedly about the benefits of exercise on the brain’s health. Now, it seems that you can combine exercise with cognitive training for positive results.
Researchers at York University’s Faculty of Health found that just 30 minutes of visually-guided movements per week can slow and even reverse the progress of dementia. Those in the early stages of dementia who were exposed to 30 minutes a week to a game which used rules to make visually-guided movements, were able to slow down the progress of dementia and for some, even reverse their cognitive function to healthy status.
Previous approaches have used cognitive training alone or aerobic exercise training alone. This study published in Dementia and Geriatric Disorders, is the first to investigate the impact of combining both types of approaches on cognitive function in elderly people with various degrees of cognitive defects.
“We found cognitive-motor integration training slows down the progress of dementia, and for those just showing symptoms of dementia, this training can actually revert them back to healthy status, stabilizing them functionally,” says lead researcher, Lauren Sergio, professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science and Centre for Vision Research at York University. Continue reading
I have talked a lot about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia over the past eight years, so when I ran across this explanation from the Mayo Clinic, I thought I would share it with you.
These terms are often used interchangeably, but they actually have very different meanings. Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term, sometimes referred to as an umbrella term, which describes a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms impact a person’s ability to perform everyday activities independently. Common symptoms include:
A decline in memory
Changes in thinking skills
Poor judgment and reasoning skills
Decreased focus and attention
Changes in language and communication skills
Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia, but it’s not the only one. There are many different types and causes of dementia, including:
Lewy body dementia
Parkinson’s disease dementia
Alzheimer’s disease, however, is the most well-known and common form of dementia but not everyone with dementia has Alzheimer’s disease.