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.
Category Archives: cognition
Most people have heard or read about calorie restriction being a technique for living longer. This is the first I have heard of it affecting cognition.
Several studies have reported that actively cutting down on calories – not simply “watching your weight” – might also be an effective strategy against cognitive decline, according to the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.
One German study found a connection between a restricted-calorie diet and improved memory among participants divided into three groups: One aimed to reduce calorie intake by 30 percent, mostly by eating smaller portions; a second group kept calories the same while increasing intake of healthy fats by 20 percent; and a third, the control group, made no dietary changes. Continue reading
FDA takes action against 17 companies for illegally selling products making Alzheimer’s disease claims
As I have written here numerous times, both sides of my family have a history of Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia. As a guy in his late 70’s this is a critical subject for me. And I am not the only one. I live near Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a major Chicago health establishment. They have a Healthy Transitions program there for folks over 50 which provides programs explaining the changes we are experiencing and can expect to experience. The most popular are the ones dealing with cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s and dementia. We are all concerned.
That’s why I hope there is a special place in hell for companies who prey on the fears of seniors about their mental health and capacities. I found this item from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) most satisfying. Continue reading
A blood test for a protein could identify people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease a decade or more before symptoms, such as a decline in memory and thinking, emerge, as reported in Medical News Today.
This was what an international group of scientists concluded after evaluating the simple test that used blood samples from people with a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease that they had inherited.
The team included researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Tübingen, Germany.
The test looks for changes in levels of the neurofilament light chain (NfL) protein. The protein normally resides inside brain cells, or neurons, as part of their internal skeleton.
However, damaged and dying cells can leak NfL into surrounding cerebrospinal fluid. The protein then travels from the fluid into the bloodstream. Continue reading
My interest in cognition and cognitive decline, particularly in seniors brought me to this amazing study. I think it may give further import to the idea of maintaining a physically active life into our senior years,
Emergency and urgent hospitalizations are associated with an increased rate of cognitive decline in older adults, report researchers at Rush University Medical Center. Results of their study, published in the Jan. 11, 2019, online issue of Neurology shows that hospitalization may be a more of a major risk factor for long-term cognitive decline in older adults than previously recognized.
“We found that those who have non-elective (emergency or urgent) hospitalizations and who have not previously been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease had a rapid decline in cognitive function (i.e., thinking abilities) compared to the pre-hospital rates,” said Bryan James, PhD, an epidemiologist and in the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and an assistant professor in the Rush Department of Internal Medicine. “By comparison, people who were never hospitalized and those who had elective hospitalizations did not experience the drastic decline in cognitive function.” Continue reading
Summary: Investigating 32 key nutrients in the Mediterranean diet, researchers report aging individuals with more abundant key nutrients in their blood had better functional connectivity and improved cognitive performance than those lacking the nutrients. Source: University of Illinois.
A new study links higher levels of several key nutrients in the blood with more efficient brain connectivity and performance on cognitive tests in older adults.
The study, reported in the journal NeuroImage, looked at 32 key nutrients in the Mediterranean diet, which previous research has shown is associated with better brain function in aging. It included 116 healthy adults 65-75 years of age.
“We wanted to investigate whether diet and nutrition predict cognitive performance in healthy older adults,” said University of Illinois postdoctoral researcher Christopher Zwilling, who led the study with U. of I. psychology professor Aron Barbey in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.
The analysis linked specific patterns of a handful of nutrient biomarkers in the blood to better brain health and cognition. The nutrient patterns included omega-3 fatty acids, which are abundant in fish, walnuts and Brussels sprouts; omega-6 fatty acids, found in flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts and pistachios; lycopene, a vivid red pigment in tomatoes, watermelon and a few other fruits and vegetables; alpha- and beta-carotenoids, which give sweet potatoes and carrots their characteristic orange color; and vitamins B and D.
The researchers relied on some of the most rigorous methods available for examining nutrient intake and brain health, Barbey said. Rather than asking participants to answer food-intake surveys, which require the accurate recall of what and how much participants ate, the team looked for patterns of nutrient “biomarkers” in the blood. The team also used functional magnetic resonance imaging to carefully evaluate the efficiency with which various brain networks performed.
“The basic question we were asking was whether diet and nutrition are associated with healthy brain aging,” Barbey said. “And instead of inferring brain health from a cognitive test, we directly examined the brain using high-resolution brain imaging.”
Functional MRIs can indicate the efficiency of individual brain networks, he said. Continue reading
Dementia can be a real snake lurking in the brain of seniors who happen to be our loved ones. Is their memory merely slipping with their added years, or do they really have a cognitive impairment? It’s a tough question for many families. As a member of a family with several instances of dementia, I can attest to that.
Quick tests used in primary care settings to identify whether people are likely to have dementia may often be wrong, according to a study published in the November 28, 2018, online issue of Neurology® Clinical Practice, an official journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The tests, called brief cognitive assessments, evaluate thinking and memory skills. They help doctors decide who may benefit from a full diagnostic assessment for dementia. The three tests examined in this study were the Mini-Mental State Examination, which looks at orientation to time and place and the ability to remember words, the Memory Impairment Screen, which focuses on the ability to remember words, and Animal Naming, which involves naming as many animals as possible in 60 seconds. Continue reading
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.
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
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
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.
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 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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.”