Category Archives: cognition

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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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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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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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10 Warning signs of dementia – Infographic

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.

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Older People Less Apt to Recognize Their Mistakes – Study

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.

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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

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Cognitive and motor training combined may slow progress of dementia or even reverse it – Study

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.

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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

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Diet, Gut Microbes and Cognitive Decline Connected – Study

Researchers from Rush University Medical believe their new study will provide a mechanistic understanding of how our microbiome and diets can impact the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The study will aim to provide evidence of possible diet induced effects on gut bacteria, which could influence age associated cognitive decline.

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The study will recruit 300 volunteers from another study, the Chicago MIND cohort, which aims to show whether a dietary intervention can prevent cognitive decline and age-associated changes in the brain. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Are abnormal intestinal microorganisms a risk factor for developing cognitive impairment? Researchers at Rush University Medical Center are trying to answer that question with a new study that will explore how the intestinal microbiota – the bacteria in the intestine –influence the progression of cognitive decline and the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Health care providers and researchers increasing are recognizing that the intestinal microbiota – also known as the microbiome – affects health. The human intestine contains tens of trillions of microorganisms, and humans have developed a symbiotic relationship with these bacteria in. Continue reading

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Olfactory dysfunction tied to cognitive dysfunction in some seniors – Study

The expression the nose knows appears to have more relevance as we age according to this study of German seniors.

In a large population-based study of randomly selected participants in Germany, researchers found that participants aged 65-74 years with olfactory dysfunction showed impaired cognitive performance. Interestingly, this strong association was not present in younger (55-64 years) or older (75-86 years) participants. Additionally, the effect was more present in women than men.

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In neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), olfactory function is diminished. Further, olfactory dysfunction precedes the onset of cognitive impairment within AD, which highlights its potential as biomarker for early, preclinical diagnosis. Several studies suggest that olfactory dysfunction predicts progression from normal cognitive functioning to mild cognitive impairment and AD. There is little evidence for this association concerning different age stages and gender differences. Continue reading

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Common Class of Drugs Linked to Dementia, Even When Taken 20 Years Before Diagnosis

Well, this is certainly a bit unnerving. The opposite side of the coin of exercising to remain healthy and prevent illness is taking medication once you become ill. Here are two widely used drugs that may have dire consequences on the patient years later.

Summary: Researchers have identified a link between anticholinergic medications, including antidepressants and incontinence drugs, and an increased risk of developing dementia later in life. Source: Regenstrief Institute.

The largest and most detailed study of the long-term impact of anticholinergic drugs, a class of drugs commonly prescribed in the United States and United Kingdom as antidepressants and incontinence medications, has found that their use is associated with increased risk of dementia, even when taken 20 years before diagnosis of cognitive impairment.

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An international research team from the US, UK and Ireland analyzed more than 27 million prescriptions as recorded in the medical records of 40,770 patients over age 65 diagnosed with dementia compared to the records of 283,933 older adults without dementia.

The researchers found greater incidence of dementia among patients prescribed anticholinergic antidepressants, anticholinergic bladder medications and anticholinergic Parkinson’s disease medications than among older adults who were not prescribed these drugs.

Dementia increased with greater exposure to anticholinergic medications.

“Anticholinergic Medication and Risk of Dementia: Case-control Study” is published in BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) an international peer-reviewed medical journal.

“Anticholinergics, medications that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have previously been implicated as a potential cause of cognitive impairment,” said Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University Center for Aging Research investigator Noll Campbell, PharmD, MS, a co-author of the new BMJ study. “This study is large enough to evaluate the long-term effect and determine that harm may be experienced years before a diagnosis of dementia is made.” Dr. Campbell is also an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Purdue University College of Pharmacy.

“These findings make it clear that clinicians need to carefully consider the anticholinergic burden of their patients and weigh other options,” said study co-author Malaz Boustani, M.D., MPH, a Regenstrief Institute and IU Center for Aging Research investigator. Dr. Boustani is the founder of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s IU Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Science and the Richard M. Fairbanks Professor of Aging Research at IU School of Medicine.

“Physicians should review all the anticholinergic medications – including over-the-counter drugs – that patients of all ages are taking and determine safe ways to take individuals off anticholinergic medications in the interest of preserving brain health,” Dr. Boustani said.

The study, which was led by the University of East Anglia and funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, both in the UK, utilized data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink which includes anonymized diagnosis, referral and prescription records for more than 11 million patients from 674 primary care practices across the UK. The data is broadly representative of the UK population in terms of age, sex and ethnicity.

“This research is really important because there are an estimated 350 million people affected globally by depression. Bladder conditions requiring treatment are estimated to affect over 13 percent of men and 30 percent of women in the UK and US,” said study lead researcher George Savva, PhD, visiting researcher at University of East Anglia’s School of Health Sciences.

“We don’t know exactly how anticholinergics might cause dementia,” said study co-author Chris Fox, MD, professor of clinical psychiatry at UEA’s Norwich Medical School and a consultant psychiatrist. “Further research is needed to understand possible reasons for this link. In the meantime, I strongly advise patients with any concerns to continue taking their medicines until they have consulted their doctor or pharmacist.”

Study co-author Ian Maidment, PhD, senior lecturer in clinical pharmacy at Aston University in the UK, said: “With many medicines having some anticholinergic activity, one key focus should be de-prescribing. Clinical staff, patients and carers need to work together collaboratively to limit the potential harm associated with anticholinergics.”

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Diet, exercise and brain training counter cognitive decline

This is wonderful news. I love everything about it. My blog is based on exactly these principles. Eat intelligently and get your exercise and your brain will benefit in your declining years. Well done!

A comprehensive program providing older people at risk of dementia with healthy eating guidance, exercise, brain training, and management of metabolic and vascular risk factors appears to slow down cognitive decline, according to the first ever randomized controlled trial of its kind, published in The Lancet.

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In the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) study, researchers led by Professor Miia Kivipelto from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, and University of Eastern Finland, assessed the effects on brain function of a comprehensive intervention aimed at addressing some of the most important risk factors for age-related dementia, such as high body-mass index and heart health. Continue reading

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2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Submits Scientific Report

Eat less; move more; live longer has been the mantra of this blog for years. I am always gratified to see those sentiments echoed elsewhere. The latest version comes from the government of all places and it dwells particularly on the aspect of exercise.

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The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee, a group of nationally recognized experts in physical activity and public health, has submitted its recommendations to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary and disbanded.

The 2018 Scientific Report reinforces the recommendations included in the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines that physical activity reduces the risk of a large number of diseases and conditions. In addition to disease prevention benefits, the Scientific Report includes findings that regular physical activity provides a variety of benefits that help people sleep better, feel better, and perform daily tasks more easily. The Committee also found that some benefits happen immediately, on the same day a single bout of physical activity is performed.

Expanding on findings from the Advisory Committee Scientific Report, 2008, the 2018 Committee identified health benefits of physical activity that had not been previously identified including:

Improved bone health and weight status for children ages 3 to 5
Improved cognitive function for children ages 6 to 13
Decreased risk of certain cancers, dementia, and excessive weight gain for adults
Improved quality of life and sleep for adults
Reduced feelings of anxiety and depression in adults
Additional benefits for specific population including older adults, women who are pregnant or postpartum, and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions

Additionally, the Committee found strong or moderate evidence that more time spent in sedentary behavior is related to greater all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality and incidence, type 2 diabetes incidence, and the incidence of certain cancers.

Get Involved: The Department has published the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report online and the public is encouraged to view the Scientific Reportand provide written comments to the federal government at https://health.gov/paguidelines/pcd. The comment period will be open until 11:59 pm E.T. April 2, 2018.

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Cognitive Training Helps Regain a Younger-Working Brain

Relentless cognitive decline as we age is worrisome, and it is widely thought to be an unavoidable negative aspect of normal aging. Researchers at the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas, however, say their research could provide new hope for extending our brain function as we age.

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In a randomized clinical study involving adults age 56 to 71 that recently published in Neurobiology of Aging, researchers found that after cognitive training, participants’ brains were more energy efficient, meaning their brain did not have to work as hard to perform a task.

Dr. Michael Motes, senior research scientist at the Center for BrainHealth and one of the lead authors of the study, said, “Finding a nonpharmacological intervention that can help the aging brain to perform like a younger brain is a welcome finding that potentially advances understanding of ways to enhance brain health and longevity. It is thrilling for me as a cognitive neuroscientist, who has previously studied age-related cognitive decline, to find that cognitive training has the potential to strengthen the aging brain to function more like a younger brain.” Continue reading

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6 Ways to a better memory – Infographic

When I was in the working world, my memory was constantly being tested. Now that I am retired my memory concerns have morphed. Being a senior citizen, I feel more aware of and am more concerned about my memory for non-professional, but very personal, reasons. I have suffered from senior moments ever since I was in my fifties. I hope that is all they are and not a prelude to any serious cognitive situations. I thought this little infographic on building up your memory might be useful to you no matter what your age is.

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Eating Fish every week linked to better sleep, higher IQ – Study

Children who eat fish at least once a week sleep better and have IQ scores that are 4 points higher, on average, than those who consume fish less frequently or not at all, according to new findings from the University of Pennsylvania published in Scientific Reports, a Nature journal.
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Previous studies showed a relationship between omega-3s, the fatty acids in many types of fish, and improved intelligence, as well as omega-3s and better sleep. But they’ve never all been connected before. This work, conducted by the School of Nursing’s​​​​​​​ Jianghong LiuJennifer Pinto-Martin and Alexandra Hanlon and Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor Adrian Raine, reveals sleep as a possible mediating pathway, the potential missing link between fish and intelligence. Continue reading

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A salad a day may keep memory problems away – Study

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, perhaps we finally have a follow up for seniors worried about slippage in cognition.

Eating about one serving per day of green, leafy vegetables may be linked to a slower rate of brain aging, according to a study published in the December 20, 2017, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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The study found that people who ate at least one serving of green, leafy vegetables a day had a slower rate of decline on tests of memory and thinking skills than people who never or rarely ate these vegetables. The difference between the two groups was the equivalent of being 11 years younger in age, according to study author Martha Clare Morris, ScD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. (my emphasis)

“Adding a daily serving of green, leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to foster your brain health,” said Morris. “Projections show sharp increases in the percentage of people with dementia as the oldest age groups continue to grow in number, so effective strategies to prevent dementia are critical.” Continue reading

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Exercise helps brain functions – Study

As regular readers know, I think we should all exercise regularly to keep our bodies and brains functioning at their best levels. It’s nice to see that the phrase use it or lose it has value on more than one level.

Mount Sinai researchers have found a positive relationship between the brain network associated with working memory—the ability to store and process information relevant to the task at hand—and healthy traits such as higher physical endurance and better cognitive function.

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These traits were associated with greater cohesiveness of the working memory brain network while traits indicating sub-optimal cardiovascular and metabolic , and sub-optimal health habits including binge drinking and regular smoking, were associated with less cohesive working memory networks.

This is the first study to establish the link between working memory and physical health and .

The results of the study were published online in Molecular Psychiatry on Tuesday, December 5, 2017.

The research team took brain scans of 823 participants in the Human Connectome Project (HCP), a large brain imaging study funded by the National Institutes of Health, while they performed a task involving working memory, and extracted measures of brain activity and connectivity to create a brain map of working memory. The team then used a statistical method called sparse canonical correlation to discover the relationships between the working memory brain map and 116 measures of cognitive ability, physical and mental health, personality, and lifestyle choices. They found that cohesiveness in the working memory brain map was positively associated with higher physical endurance and better cognitive function. Physical traits such as high body mass index, and suboptimal lifestyle choices including binge alcohol drinking and regular smoking, had the opposite association.

“Working memory accounts for individual differences in personal, educational, and professional attainment,” said Sophia Frangou, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Working is also one of the brain functions that is severely affected by physical and mental illnesses. Our study identified factors that can either support or undermine the brain network. Our findings can empower people to make informed choices about how best to promote and preserve health.”

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