I have written repeatedly about getting a good night’s sleep. You can check my page – How important is a good night’s sleep? for more details. Regular readers also know about my concern about cognition and the vulnerability of an aging brain because of the Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia in my family.
A preliminary study by researchers at Uppsala University has found that when young, healthy men were deprived of just one night of sleep, they had higher levels of tau – a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease – in their blood than when they had a full, uninterrupted night of rest. The study is published in the medical journal Neurology.
Tau is a protein found in neurons and the protein can form into tangles. These accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. This accumulation can start decades before symptoms of the disease appear. Previous studies of older adults have suggested that sleep deprivation can increase the level of tau in the cerebral spinal fluid. Trauma to the head can also increase circulating concentrations of tau in blood.
I know I talk a lot about exercise and how it benefits the brain as much as the body. But, don’t forget that good nutrition also counts. Consider these as the ‘neuro-nine’ foods that can help you strengthen your neuroplasticity.
People who play drums regularly for years differ from unmusical people in their brain structure and function. The results of a study by researchers from Bochum suggest that they have fewer, but thicker fibers in the main connecting tract between the two halves of the brain. In addition, their motor brain areas are organized more efficiently. This is the conclusion drawn by a research team headed by Dr. Lara Schlaffke from the Bergmannsheil university clinic in Bochum and Associate Professor Dr. Sebastian Ocklenburg from the biopsychology research unit at Ruhr-Universität Bochum following a study with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The results have been published in the journal Brain and Behavior, online on 4 December 2019.
“It has long been understood that playing a musical instrument can change the brain via neuroplastic processes,” says Sarah Friedrich, who wrote her bachelor’s thesis on this project. “But no one had previously looked specifically into drummers,” she adds. Continue reading →
Scientists at the University of Birmingham in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam have uncovered a possible explanation for the mental sluggishness that often accompanies illness.
An estimated 12M UK citizens have a chronic medical condition, and many of them report severe mental fatigue that they characterize as ‘sluggishness’ or ‘brain fog’. This condition is often as debilitating as the disease itself.
A team in the University’s Center for Human Brain Health investigated the link between this mental fog and inflammation – the body’s response to illness. In a study published in Neuroimage, they show that inflammation appears to have a particular negative impact on the brain’s readiness to reach and maintain an alert state.
Dr Ali Mazaheri and Professor Jane Raymond of the University’s Centre for Human Brain Health, are the senior authors of the study. Dr Mazaheri says: “Scientists have long suspected a link between inflammation and cognition, but it is very difficult to be clear about the cause and effect. For example, people living with a medical condition or being very overweight might complain of cognitive impairment, but it’s hard to tell if that’s due to the inflammation associated with these conditions or if there are other reasons.” Continue reading →
Everyone knows that there is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. One of the problems is that by the time that symptoms become apparent, the disease has progressed so far as to be irreversible. This new study, however, appears to offer the chance of heading off the disease before it gets out of hand.
In a new study, Biodesign researchers reveal that a lifelong dietary regimen of choline holds the potential to prevent Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Choline is a safe and easy-to-administer nutrient that is naturally present in some foods and can be used as a dietary supplement. Lead author Ramon Velazquez and his colleagues at the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center (NDRC) looked into whether this nutrient could alleviate the effects of Alzheimer’s.
Earlier this year, Velazquez and colleagues found transgenerational benefits of AD-like symptoms in mice whose mothers were supplemented with choline. The latest work expands this line of research by exploring the effects of choline administered in adulthood rather than in fetal mice.
The study focuses on female mice bred to develop AD-like symptoms. Given the higher prevalence of AD in human females, the study sought to establish the findings in female mice. Results showed that when these mice are given high choline in their diet throughout life, they exhibit improvements in spatial memory, compared with those receiving a normal choline regimen.
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.
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 →
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.
At the risk of being repetitious, I just wanted to pass along some good information on keeping your brain intact while you are pursuing a life of healthy eating and regular exercise. That’s why you’re reading this blog, right?
The seven guidelines to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease are:
Minimize your intake of saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fat is found primarily in dairy products, meats, and certain oils (coconut and palm oils). Trans fats are found in many snack pastries and fried foods and are listed on labels as “partially hydrogenated oils.”
Eat plant-based foods. Vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), fruits, and whole grains should replace meats and dairy products as primary staples of the diet.
Consume 15 milligrams of vitamin E, from foods, each day. Vitamin E should come from foods, rather than supplements. Healthful food sources of vitamin E include seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains. Note: The RDA for vitamin E is 15 milligrams per day.
Take a B12 supplement. A reliable source of B12, such as fortified foods or a supplement providing at least the recommended daily allowance (2.4 micrograms per day for adults), should be part of your daily diet. Note: Have your blood levels of vitamin B12 checked regularly as many factors, including age, impair absorption.
Avoid vitamins with iron and copper. If using multivitamins, choose those without iron and copper, and consume iron supplements only when directed by your physician.
Choose aluminum-free products. While aluminum’s role in Alzheimer’s disease remains a matter of investigation, those who desire to minimize their exposure can avoid the use of cookware, antacids, baking powder, or other products that contain aluminum.
Exercise for 120 minutes each week. Include aerobic exercise in your routine, equivalent to 40 minutes of brisk walking, three times per week.
Other preventive measures, such as getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night and participating in 30 to 40 minutes of mental activity most days of the week, such as completing crossword puzzles, reading the newspaper, or learning a new language, can only help boost brain health.
Cannabis use has come to the forefront of our lives recently. For decades it was criminal. Now, all of a sudden it is legal and there are blue chip companies ponying up giant sums to get into the business. I admit to having smoked it in my 20’s. I liked listening to music under the influence. I seriously doubt that the weed I used in the 1960’s has much similarity to the stuff circulating today.
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.
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.
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 →
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.
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 →
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.
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.
I love this infographic of the brain. Surprisingly, they left out one of the most impressive facts to me, namely, that the brain burns 20 to 25 percent of our daily calories. Bigger than any single muscle.
I have spent a lot of time writing about the benefits of exercise for the brain as well as the body. Herewith info from the Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter on what I can only call food for thought.
Currently available medical treatments for age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease have had limited success. Adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle has been among the most consistent recommendations to maintain brain health over the long term. Some studies have linked an overall healthy dietary pattern to less chance of experiencing age-related decline in memory and other cognitive skills.
The specifics of “brain protective” diets vary, but tend to have certain elements in common. Dietary patterns associated with lower risk of age-related cognitive decline and dementia are higher in non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes and seafood while limited in red and/or processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, refined grains and added salt.
But there have been few long-term trials testing overall dietary patterns for protecting the aging brain. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health are currently conducting a clinical trial of a diet specifically optimized for brain health and mild weight loss—the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet.
If successful, the result of the MIND trial will provide older adults with more specific nutritional guidance to maintain their cognitive health. “What they’re doing is logical and I predict will have positive benefits for a disease for which we have few interventions,” notes Dennis Steindler, PhD, senior scientist and director of Tufts’ HNRCA Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory. “Past trials were not home runs, but this study could be it if it bears the kind of findings I think it will.” Continue reading →
Summary: A neuroimaging study reveals the effects of social exclusion in the left inferior frontal gyrus. The study found social exclusion can spur extremist behaviors in people who are most vulnerable to radicalization. Source: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
A study led by researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM), in collaboration with other international institutions, explored the neural and behavioral relationships between sacred values, violent extremism and social exclusion in a group of young Moroccan men living and schooled in Catalonia and vulnerable to radicalization.
A study conducted by the UAB and IMIM used neuroimaging techniques to show that social exclusion increases the number of ideological and group values worth fighting and dying for in populations vulnerable to radicalisation. The study focused on neural activity in a region of the brain related to rule retrieval and sacred values. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.Sacred values are those perceived as non-negotiable, those which must be upheld at all costs. They also contain an identity component related to perceiving the person as a member of their reference group.