Category Archives: brain function

Foods that promote brain function – Tufts

Eat less; move more; live longer is still the mantra here. We want to live as long as possible and also have a fully functioning brain all the way. I consider exercise to be one of the keys, but certainly diet plays a part, too.

Tufts Food & Nutrition Letter says that the science of whether some dietary choices can be considered brain food or not continues to unfold.

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Given long time-frames of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, it’s challenging to prove any cause and effect relationship between specific foods and brain health. Most such associations are drawn from observational studies, in which people who eat more or less of a certain food are assessed over time for cognitive changes.

It’s obviously difficult to feed a group of study participants lots of, say, blueberries for several years in order to test their brain health at the end; that’s why clinical trials of so-called brain foods have largely depended on animal tests.

Nonetheless, some foods tend to stand out from the pages and pages of research results as most likely being protective for brain health.

Foods That Promote Brain Function

Brain foods typically contain one or more nutrients that scientists believe have positive effects on the brain and/or the cardiovascular system, which in turn affects the brain. These foods include: Continue reading

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Heart Attack Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment Get Fewer Treatments

I guess this would be an example of the old adage, “When it rains, it pours.”

A new study finds people who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which lies on the continuum of cognitive decline between normal cognition and dementia, are less likely to receive proven heart attack treatment in the hospital.

dementia

Researchers found no evidence that those with MCI would derive less benefit from evidence-based treatment that’s offered to their cognitively normal peers who have heart attacks, says lead author Deborah Levine, M.D., MPH.

“Patients should get the treatments they would want if they were properly informed,” says Levine, an associate professor of internal medicine and neurology at Michigan Medicine.

Some people with thinking, memory and language problems have MCI. Unlike dementia, which severely interferes with daily functioning and worsens over time, MCI does not severely interfere with daily functioning and might not worsen over time. Although people with MCI have an increased risk of developing dementia, it’s not an inevitable next step, Levine says.

“While some may progress to dementia, many will persist in having MCI, and a few will actually improve and revert to normal cognition,” says Levine, also a member of the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. “Many older adults with MCI live years with good quality of life, and so face common health risks of aging like heart attack and stroke.

“Clinicians, patients and families might be overestimating the risk of dementia after a mild cognitive impairment diagnosis even without realizing it. These older adults with MCI should still receive evidence-based treatments when indicated.” Continue reading

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Think declining mental sharpness ‘just comes with age’? Think again, say experts

Declining mental sharpness “just comes with age,” right? Not so fast, say geriatrics researchers and clinicians gathered at a prestigious 2018 conference hosted by the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) with support from the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

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In a report published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS), attendees of a conference for the NIA’s Grants for Early Medical/Surgical Specialists Transition into Aging Research (GEMSSTAR) program describe how increasing evidence shows age-related diseases–rather than age itself–may be the key cause of cognitive decline. And while old age remains a primary risk factor for cognitive impairment, researchers believe future research–and sustained funding–could illuminate more complex, nuanced connections between cognitive health, overall health, and how we approach age. Continue reading

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Aging arteries weaken memory – Study

Regular readers know of my concern about aging and its effect on cognition as three of my direct family members suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. For that reason I try to keep my arteries flexible through my program of regular exercise. I know that there is no known way to prevent Alzheimer’s, but I am willing to take any physical measures that I can to reduce my chances. Check out my Page  – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for more details on this subject.

Researchers in Umeå, Sweden, have presented a model that explains why memory deteriorates as the body ages. With age, the brain receives an increased load from the heart’s beating as the body’s large arteries stiffen over the years, causing damage to the smallest blood vessels in the brain.

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The fact that human memory is deteriorating with increasing age is something that most people experience sooner or later, even among those who avoid diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Similarly, a connection between the ageing of the brain and the body is well known. However, the exact nature of this association is not known.

“We suggest a chain of events on how the aging of the brain and vessels are related,” says Lars Nyberg, professor at Umeå University.

What Umeå researchers Lars Nyberg and Anders Wåhlin have created is an explanatory model that starts with the heartbeat, and carries through the largest arteries in the body all the way to the finest vessels in the brain. An important feature of the model is that it provides a rationale why some cognitive processes may be particularly at risk for the proposed mechanism.

As the human body ages, large arteries, such as the aorta, stiffen and lose a large portion of their ability to absorb the pressure increase generated as the heart ejects blood into the arteries. Such pressure pulsatility is instead transmitted to smaller blood vessels, for example those in the brain. The smallest blood vessels in the brain, the capillaries, are subjected to an increased stress that causes damage to cells within and surrounding the capillary walls. These cells are important in the regulation of the capillary blood flow. If the smallest blood vessels are damaged, this is detrimental to the ability to increase the blood supply to the brain when coping with demanding cognitive processes.

According to the researchers’ model, the hippocampus in the brain is particularly vulnerable. The structure in that part of the brain is important for the episodic memory, that is, the ability to remember events from the past. The vulnerability of the hippocampus relates to the fact that it is located close to the large vessels and thus is exposed to the increased load early in the chain. In a young and healthy person, the pulsations are soft, but in an ageing person the pulsations can be so powerful that they affect the brain tissue and can damage the blood supply to memory processes.

The Umeå researchers’ model is based on a number of previous studies from the last five years.

“We have laid the puzzle of current and verified research in different fields to a broader and more detailed picture of the course of events. It will form a starting point for future research to gain a better understanding and, in the long term, researchers may also find solutions to slow down the process,” says Anders Wåhlin.

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10 Brain-saving techniques – Alzheimer’s Association

As regular readers know, I am very sensitive to cognitive impairment, having lost three close family members to Alzheimer’s and dementia. So I was very happy to come across this list of recommendations for building up our mental muscles and reducing our chances of contracting Alzheimer’s from the Alzheimer’s Association.

dementia

“Research on cognitive decline is still evolving,” said Theresa Hocker, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association – North Central Texas Chapter. “But there are actions people can take. Certain healthy behaviors known to combat cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes also may reduce the risk of cognitive decline. These include staying mentally active, engaging in regular physical activity, and eating a heart-healthy diet that benefits your body and your brain.”

1. Break a sweat. Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.

2. Hit the books. Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online.

3. Butt out. Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked. Continue reading

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Seniors Improve Brain Function by Raising Fitness Level – University of Kansas

Science Daily reported that a professor of neurology at KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center, led a six-month trial conducted with healthy adults ages 65 and older who showed no signs of cognitive decline.

The randomized controlled trial attempted to determine the ideal amount of exercise necessary to achieve benefits to the brain.

Exercises-for-Seniors-and-Benefits

Before proceeding, I would like to add that I am now in my tenth year of writing this blog. To continue that long at a healthy pace (+3000 posts) you have to be motivated and get positive feedback.

Reading about this new study on exercise benefiting the brain was extraordinarily positive feedback. I have written about the benefits of exercise and the brain for several years. You can check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise) for more details. Suffice it to say that the KU report was most welcome. Continue reading

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Left brain vs right brain …

The human brain fascinates me for lots of reasons. I have taken several courses in it from The Great Courses and recommend them for anyone curious about this amazing organ that lives inside our heads. I have written a number of posts on various aspects of the brain which I recommend your chasing down. Just type in b r a i n into the SEARCH BOX at the right. Also, you can check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits). Last, but not least, of course, there is the specter of dementia in general and Alzheimer’s Disease, in particular. I have lost three family members to these afflictions and, at the age of 79, I am very focused on my mental functions. Which brings us to this wonderful article in Medical News Today on the two hemispheres of the brain – the left and the right.

brain

The two hemispheres or sides of the brain have slightly different jobs. But can one side be dominant and does this affect personality?

Some people believe that a person is either left-brained or right-brained and that this determines the way they think and behave.

In this article, we explore the truth and fallacy behind this claim. Read on to learn more about the functions and characteristics of the left and right brain. Continue reading

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New blood test for Alzheimer’s – Study

There is possible good news is the study of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers from Lund University, together with the Roche pharmaceutical company, have used a method to develop a new blood marker capable of detecting whether or not a person has Alzheimer’s disease. If the method is approved for clinical use, the researchers hope eventually to see it used as a diagnostic tool in primary healthcare. This autumn, they will start a trial in primary healthcare to test the technique.

MIT-Mood-Disoders

Currently, a major support in the diagnostics of Alzheimer’s disease is the identification of abnormal accumulation of the substance beta-amyloid, which can be detected either in a spinal fluid sample or through brain imaging using a PET scanner. Continue reading

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Seniors – Raise fitness level; Improve brain function – KU

Science Daily reported that a professor of neurology at Kansas University (KU) Alzheimer’s Disease Center, led a six-month trial conducted with healthy adults ages 65 and older who showed no signs of cognitive decline.

The randomized controlled trial attempted to determine the ideal amount of exercise necessary to achieve benefits to the brain.

Exercises-for-Seniors-and-Benefits

Before proceeding, I would like to add that I am now in my sixth year of writing this blog. To continue that long at a healthy pace (+2500 posts) you have to be motivated and get positive feedback.

Reading about this new study on exercise benefiting the brain was extraordinarily positive feedback. I have written about the benefits of exercise and the brain for several years. You can check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise) for more details. Suffice it to say that the KU report was most welcome. Continue reading

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Teeth brushing may fight Alzheimer’s

As a person with no less than three cases of Alzheimer’s/dementia in his family, I have serious interest in anything relating to maintaining brain health and function. So, I was most interested in this item from the University of Bergen.

You don’t only avoid holes in your teeth by keeping good oral hygiene, researchers at the University of Bergen have discovered a clear connection between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

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The researchers have determined that gum disease (gingivitis) plays a decisive role in whether a person develops Alzheimer’s or not.

“We discovered DNA-based proof that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain,” says researcher Piotr Mydel at Broegelmanns Research Laboratory, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen (UiB).

The bacteria produces a protein that destroys nerve cells in the brain, which in turn leads to loss of memory and ultimately, Alzheimer’s. Continue reading

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Reaching and grasping — Learning fine motor coordination changes the brain

When we train the reaching for and grasping of objects, we also train our brain. In other words, this action brings about changes in the connections of a certain neuronal population in the red nucleus, a region of the midbrain. Researchers at the University of Basel’s Biozentrum have discovered this group of nerve cells in the red nucleus. They have also shown how fine motor tasks promote plastic reorganization of this brain region. The results of the study have been published recently in Nature Communications.

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Simply grasping a coffee cup needs fine motor coordination with the highest precision. This required performance of the brain is an ability that can also be learned and trained. Prof. Kelly Tan’s research group at the Biozentrum, University of Basel, has investigated the red nucleus, a region of the midbrain that controls fine motor movement, and identified a new population of nerve cells which changes when fine motor coordination is trained. The more that grasping is practiced, the more the connections between the neurons of this group of nerve cells are strengthened. Continue reading

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What about teen cannabis use – Study

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About one in five Canadian adolescents uses cannabis (19% of Canadians aged 15-19), and its recent legalization across the country warrants investigation into the consequence of this use on the developing brain. Adolescence is associated with the maturation of cognitive functions, such as working memory, decision-making, and impulsivity control. This is a highly vulnerable period for the development of the brain as it represents a critical period wherein regulatory connection between higher-order regions of the cortex and emotional processing circuits deeper inside the brain are established. It is a period of strong remodeling, making adolescents highly vulnerable to drug-related developmental disturbances. Research presented by Canadian neuroscientists Patricia Conrod, Steven Laviolette, Iris Balodis and Jibran Khokhar at the 2019 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting in Toronto on May 25 featured recent discoveries on the effects of cannabis on the adolescent brain.

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Researchers Define Alzheimer’s-like Brain Disorder

As regular readers know, I have a history of Alzheimer’s Disease or some form of dementia on both sides of my family, so I entertain a strong interest in the subject, particularly since I am a senior citizen.

neuroimaging-social-exclusion-radicalization-neuroscineews

A brain disorder that mimics symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease has been defined with recommended diagnostic criteria and guidelines for advancing future research on the condition. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center and scientists from several National Institutes of Health-funded institutions, in collaboration with international peers, described the newly named pathway to dementia, limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy, or LATE, in a report published today in the journal Brain.

“We proposed a new name to increase recognition and research for this common cause of dementia, the symptoms of which mimic Alzheimer’s dementia but is not caused by plaques and tangles (the buildup of beta amyloid proteins that Alzheimer’s produces). Rather, LATE dementia is caused by deposits of a protein called TDP-43 in the brain,” said Dr. Julie Schneider, senior author of the Brain paper and associate director of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Continue reading

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Tufts on brain food

The science of whether some dietary choices can be considered brain food or not continues to unfold.

Given long time-frames of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, it’s challenging to prove any cause and effect relationship between specific foods and brain health. Most such associations are drawn from observational studies, in which people who eat more or less of a certain food are assessed over time for cognitive changes.

berries blackberries blueberries bowls

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s obviously difficult to feed a group of study participants lots of, say, blueberries for several years in order to test their brain health at the end; that’s why clinical trials of so-called brain foods have largely depended on animal tests.

Nonetheless, some foods tend to stand out from the pages and pages of research results as most likely being protective for brain health. Continue reading

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Filed under brain, brain function, brain health, nuts

Is it possible to supercharge memories back to life? – BU Study

As a 79 year old bike rider, I know how much I am counting on exercise to keep my brain intact as I age. So, I was nothing less than amazed to run across the Boston University (BU) study on electrically stimulating brain function in seniors.

BU brain scientist shows electrostimulation can restore a 70-year-old’s working memory to that of a 20-year-old.

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As you read the words stretched across this page, your brain is doing something magnificent. Each sentence lingers in your mind for a fleeting moment, the letters melding into a symphony of neural signals. These intricate electrical rhythms form the language of the brain, a language we have only begun to understand within the last century.

Rob Reinhart, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, says we’ve reached a point where we not only understand this language—we can speak it and harness it to enhance the functioning of the mind. In a groundbreaking study published April 2019 in Nature Neuroscience, Reinhart and BU doctoral researcher John Nguyen demonstrate that electrostimulation can improve the working memory of people in their 70s so that their performance on memory tasks is indistinguishable from that of 20-year-olds.

Reinhart and Nguyen’s research targets working memory—the part of the mind where consciousness lives, the part that is active whenever we make decisions, reason, recall our grocery lists, and (hopefully) remember where we left our keys. Working memory starts to decline in our late 20s and early 30s, Reinhart explains, as certain areas of the brain gradually become disconnected and uncoordinated. By the time we reach our 60s and 70s, these neural circuits have deteriorated enough that many of us experience noticeable cognitive difficulties, even in the absence of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading

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Brain health connects to heart health – CDC

Eat less; move more; live longer is the mantra here. Apparently, it also leads to think better, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) seems to think so.

Did you know that the health of your brain and your heart are connected? By keeping your heart healthy, you also lower your risk for brain problems such as stroke and dementia. Learn more about the connection between the heart and brain and steps to take to keep both healthy.

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Heart disease, stroke, and vascular dementia are preventable. Take steps to reduce your risk.

 

  • Control your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Over time, high blood pressure puts too much stress on blood vessels. Scientists now know that having uncontrolled high blood pressure in midlife also raises your risk for dementia later in life. Know your numbers by getting your blood pressure checked regularly. If your blood pressure is high, work with your doctor, nurse, or health care team to manage it. One way to manage your blood pressure is to take your medicines as prescribed. Learn more ways to manage blood pressure.
  • Eat healthy foods and limit alcohol. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and include seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon) each week. Limit foods with added sugars and saturated fats, and lower your sodium (salt) intake. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure, which can lead to stroke and increase the risk of some kinds of heart disease.
  • Get diabetes under control. Diabetes causes high blood sugar, which can damage blood vessels and nerves. This damage raises the risk for heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking damages blood vessels and makes blood more likely to clot, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, learn how to quit.
  • Stay active. Lack of physical activity can lead to high blood pressure and obesity. Most Americans don’t meet guidelines of getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Find ways to get your heart pumping for at least 150 minutes per week. Take the stairs, schedule a walk at lunch, or do jumping jacks during commercial breaks. Learn more about how to get enough physical activity.

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