Category Archives: memory

Regular exercise changes the brain – Harvard

Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. It is good to learn from Harvard, no less, that moving more also helps to keep our brain intact and functioning.

There are plenty of good reasons to be physically active. Big ones include reducing the odds of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Maybe you want to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, prevent depression, or just look better. Here’s another one, which especially applies to those of us (including me) experiencing the brain fog that comes with age: exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills.

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In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.

The finding comes at a critical time. Researchers say one new case of dementia is detected every four seconds globally. They estimate that by the year 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia worldwide. Continue reading

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Know someone with memory loss?

I have a sensitivity to the subject of memory and cognition because of the dementia on both sides of my family. This graphic is from the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is a full write up with it. If you would  like to read it, here is the link: MMWR.

As you can see some form of memory loss is widespread among adults over their mid-40’s. It seems clear to me that this is a subject worth talking about – with your loved ones – as well as healthcare providers.

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Tony

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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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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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Even mild physical activity immediately improves memory function, study finds

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.

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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

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Active Social Life May Preserve Memory and Slow Brain Aging

Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. However, according to this latest study from Ohio State University – interact with friends more – might also be added.

A new study reveals a positive link between socializing, improved memory and a reduced rate of brain aging in mice. Mice who were housed in pairs showed less sings of inflammation and tissue erosion in the hippocampus, researchers report.

New research from The Ohio State University found that mice housed in groups had better memories and healthier brains than animals that lived in pairs.

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The discovery bolsters a body of research in humans and animals that supports the role of social connections in preserving the mind and improving quality of life, said lead researcher Elizabeth Kirby, an assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience and member of the Center for Chronic Brain Injury at Ohio State.

“Our research suggests that merely having a larger social network can positively influence the aging brain,” said Kirby, who is a member of the Neurological Institute at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. Her research appears in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

“We know that in humans there’s a strong correlation between cognitive health and social connections, but we don’t know if it’s having a group of friends that’s protecting people or if it’s that people with declining brain health withdraw from their human connections,” Kirby said.

This study was designed to answer that hard-to-crack question with an animal model.

Some mice lived in pairs, which Kirby refers to as the “old-couple model.” Others were housed for three months with six other roommates, a scenario that allows for “pretty complex interactions.”

The mice were 15 months to 18 months old during the experiment – a time of significant natural memory decline in the rodent lifespan.

“It’s like mouse post-retirement age. If they drove, they’d be forgetting where the keys are or where they parked the car more often,” Kirby said.

In tests of memory, the group-housed mice fared better.

One test challenged the mice to recognize that a toy, such as a plastic car, had moved to a new location. A mouse with good brain health will gravitate toward the novelty of something that has been relocated.

“With the pair-housed mice, they had no idea that the object had moved. The group-housed mice were much better at remembering what they’d seen before and went to the toy in a new location, ignoring another toy that had not moved,” Kirby said.

In another common maze-based memory test, mice are placed on a well-lit round table with holes, some of which lead to escape hatches. Their natural tendency is to look for the dark, unexposed and “safe” escape routes.

Both groups of mice improved their escape-route search strategies with practice – but the research team was struck by the differences in the groups’ response to repeated tests, Kirby said.

The “couples” mice didn’t get faster at the test when it was repeated over the course of a day.

“But over the course of many days, they developed a serial-searching strategy where they checked every hole as quickly as possible. It’d be like walking as quickly as possible through each row of a parking lot to look for your car rather than trying to remember where your car actually is and walk to that spot,” Kirby said.

The group-housed mice improved with each trial, though.

“They seemed to try to memorize where the escape hatches are and walk to them directly, which is the behavior we see in healthy young mice,” Kirby said. “And that tells us that they’re using the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is really important for good memory function.”

The serial searching employed by the pair-housed mice is simpler, easier and doesn’t use that part of the brain, she said.

In humans, mice and many other animals, brain function in the hippocampus markedly declines with age, even in the absence of dementia. Exercise and social ties are known to preserve memory in this region in people, Kirby said.

After the housing experiment, the researchers examined the brain tissue of the mice and found increased inflammation in the pair-housed mice – biological evidence of eroded cognitive health.

“The group-housed mice had fewer signs of this inflammation, meaning that their brains didn’t look as ‘old’ as those that lived in pairs,” Kirby said.

The researchers also looked for evidence of new neuron growth in the hippocampus and found no differences between the groups.

Previous research in this area has primarily focused on mice that have highly enriched environments with lots of toys and opportunities for exercise and compared them with mice without as much to do.

This study goes further by showcasing differences that appear to be due to socialization alone, Kirby said. Future research should explore the molecular explanations for the connection between socialization and improved memory and brain health, she said.

Kirby said that people who are aging would do well to consider how their choices about where to live might impact their ability to be social.

“Something as basic as how long it takes to drive or walk to a friend’s house can make a big difference as we get older,” she said.

“A lot of people end up isolated not by choice, but by circumstance. ‘Over the river and through the woods’ might be fun for the kids, but it’s probably not so great for Grandma,” Kirby said.

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Sitting is Bad for Your Brain, Not Just Your Heart or Metabolism

It’s been a couple of years now since I first learned the dangers of prolonged sitting. Someone even called ‘sitting the new smoking.‘ I thought that might have been excessive – might have been. However, this new information from UCLA researchers certainly adds resonance to the problem for seniors.

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Sitting too much is linked to changes in a section of the brain that is critical for memory, according to a preliminary study by UCLA researchers of middle-aged and older adults.

Studies show that too much sitting, like smoking, increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and premature death. Researchers at UCLA wanted to see how sedentary behavior influences brain health, especially regions of the brain that are critical to memory formation.

METHOD

UCLA researchers recruited 35 people ages 45 to 75 and asked about their physical activity levels and the average number of hours per day they spent sitting over the previous week. Each person had a high-resolution MRI scan, which provides a detailed look at the medial temporal lobe, or MTL, a brain region involved in the formation of new memories.

The researchers found that sedentary behavior is a significant predictor of thinning of the MTL and that physical activity, even at high levels, is insufficient to offset the harmful effects of sitting for extended periods.

This study does not prove that too much sitting causes thinner brain structures, but instead that more hours spent sitting are associated with thinner regions, researchers said. In addition, the researchers focused on the hours spent sitting, but did not ask participants if they took breaks during this time.

The researchers next hope to follow a group of people for a longer duration to determine if sitting causes the thinning and what role gender, race, and weight might play in brain health related to sitting.

IMPACT

MTL thinning can be a precursor to cognitive decline and dementia in middle-aged and older adults. Reducing sedentary behavior may be a possible target for interventions designed to improve brain health in people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, researchers said.

Please check out my Page – Do you know the dangers of too much sitting? for more details on the common practice.

Tony

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How Do We Lose Memory? A STEP at a Time

Summary: A new study reports increased levels of STEP in the hippocampus is linked to mild cognitive impairment.

 

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In mice, rats, monkeys, and people, aging can take its toll on cognitive function. A new study by researchers at Yale and Université de Montréal reveal there is a common denominator to the decline in all of these species — an increase in the level of the molecule striatal-enriched phosphatase, or STEP.

Increased levels of STEP in the hippocampus, a brain structure crucial to the formation of memory, were found in memory-impaired mice and rats, aged rhesus monkeys, and people suffering from mild cognitive impairment, the researchers report March 22 in the journal Current Biology.

High levels of STEP have also been reported in brains of Alzheimer’s patients, the authors note. STEP appears to play a key role in memory consolidation, but too much of it seems to be a bad thing. Young mice and rats with elevated levels of STEP perform more poorly on maze and other memory tests than their peers, and older animals in which STEP is inhibited perform more like young mice.

The scientists hypothesize that as we age we lose ability of to degrade STEP, leading to an unhealthy build up.

“The obvious follow up is to look for STEP inhibitors that will work in people,” said co-corresponding author Paul Lombroso, the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor in the Child Study Center and professor of neuroscience and of psychiatry.

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Mis-remembering vs. forgetting – Seniors Study

As a 78-year-old concerned about his cognitive facilities remaining intact, this Penn State study caught my attention.

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Older adults often complain about forgetting, but Penn State psychologists suggest that another problem may be mis-remembering.

In a study, the researchers found that as people age, they may be more likely to rely on a type of memory — called schematic memory — that helps them remember the gist of an event, but not necessarily the details. This inability to remember details, though, could lead to difficulty in distinguishing between a memory of something that really happened and something that a person thought happened, but did not — a false memory.

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Turmeric compound could boost memory and mood

I have eaten and enjoyed Indian food back in the late 1970’s when I lived in London and didn’t eat meat. Those days are long gone, but I do keep hearing good things about turmeric. Here is a nice rundown from Medical News Today on it.

Not a lover of Indian food? A new study might change your mind. Researchers have found that a compound in turmeric — the spice that gives curry its golden color — could help to improve the mood and memory of older adults.

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Turmeric has been linked to a wealth of health benefits. Last year, for example, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that turmeric could help to treat pancreatic cancer, while other research claims the popular spice may help to treat stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading

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Everyday habits can bolster your memory muscles – Harvard

Regular readers know that I have had several members of my family, or both sides, suffer from dementia in general or Alzheimer’s in particular. So, being a guy in his late 70’s I am particularly sensitive to any kind of cognitive kinks that I may be experiencing. I don’t know if it is my imagination or there are simply more people coming on board the cognitive improvement movement. Herewith, Harvard Healthbeat on tips for strengthening your memory.

Your daily habits and lifestyle — what you eat and drink, whether you exercise, how stressed you are, and more — affect your mental health every bit as much as your physical health. A growing body of research indicates that regular exercise and a healthful diet can help protect your memory from aging-related decline. (my emphasis)

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Exercise

Physical fitness and mental fitness go together. People who exercise regularly tend to stay mentally sharp into their 70s, 80s, and beyond. Although the precise “dose” of exercise isn’t known, research suggests that the exercise should be moderate to vigorous and regular. Examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, stationary bicycling, water aerobics, and competitive table tennis. Vigorous activities include jogging, high-impact aerobic dancing, square dancing, and tennis.

Exercise helps memory in several ways. It reduces the risk of developing several potentially memory-robbing conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Exercise is good for the lungs, and people who have good lung function send more oxygen to their brains. There is some evidence that exercise helps build new connections between brain cells and improves communication between them. Finally, exercise has been linked to increased production of neurotrophins, substances that nourish brain cells and help protect them against damage from stroke and other injuries.

 

Here are some ways to build physical activity into your daily routine:

Walk instead of driving when possible.

Set aside time each day for exercise. For extra motivation, ask your spouse or a friend to join you.

Use the stairs instead of the elevator.

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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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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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Memory loss reversed in early Alzheimer’s – Study

Researchers have successfully reversed memory loss in a small number of people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease using a comprehensive treatment program, which involves a combination of lifestyle changes, brain stimulation, and medication.

Researchers suggest the MEND program is highly effective for reversing memory loss.

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Memory improvements as a result of the treatment program have so far been sustained for 2 years, the researchers report, and some patients have even been able to return to work as a result.

Study co-author Dr. Dale Bredesen, of the Buck Institute on Research and Aging in Novato, CA, and colleagues recently published their findings in the journal Aging.

While the study only involved 10 patients, the researchers believe their findings may open the door to an effective therapy for cognitive decline.

“The magnitude of improvement in these 10 patients is unprecedented, providing additional objective evidence that this programmatic approach to cognitive decline is highly effective,” says Dr. Bredesen.

There are currently around 5.4 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading

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Good every day habits to keep your memory in good shape – Harvard

As a senior citizen, I am aware of the aging process going on in both my body and my brain. I exercise to help preserve both. Here are some super suggestions from Harvard HEALTHbeat on bolstering the memory aspect of your brain.

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Your daily habits and lifestyle — what you eat and drink, whether you exercise, how stressed you are, and more — affect your mental health every bit as much as your physical health. A growing body of research indicates that regular exercise and a healthful diet can help protect your memory from aging-related decline. Continue reading

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5 Ways to keep your memory sharp – Harvard

Regular readers know that I am a senior citizen; will be 77 in January. So, I have a lot of senior friends. We have all experienced ‘senior moments’ when we find our memory becoming slightly elusive. Because my family has had Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia I am particularly sensitive to any brain stuff. So I was impressed with the suggestions that Harvard brought forward regarding enhancing our memory.

The way you live, what you eat and drink, and how you treat your body can affect your memory just as much as your physical health and well-being. Here are five things you can do every day to keep both your mind and body sharp.

1. Manage your stress. The constant drumbeat of daily stresses such as deadline pressures or petty arguments can certainly distract you and affect your ability to focus and recall. But the bigger problem is an ongoing sense of anxiety — that can lead to memory impairment. If you don’t have a strategy in place for managing your stress, protecting your memory is one reason to get one. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and a “mindful” approach to living can all help.

I have posted a number of times on stress. You can find them by searching s t r e s s in the box at the right. If you want one excellent example check out: Super tools for handling stress.

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Does Eating Fish Help Memory?

A diet lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients commonly found in fish, may cause your brain to age faster and lose some of its memory and thinking abilities, according to a study published in the print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“People with lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had lower brain volumes that were equivalent to about two years of structural brain aging,” said study author Zaldy S. Tan, MD, MPH, of the Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the Division of Geriatrics, University of California at Los Angeles.

For the study, 1,575 people with an average age of 67 and free of dementia underwent MRI brain scans. They were also given tests that measured mental function, body mass and the omega-3 fatty acid levels in their red blood cells.

SelfNutrition Data lists the following foods as high in Omega-3 fatty acids: In order of importance: based on 200 calorie serving:
Flaxseed oil is the highest with 12,059 mg.
Flax seeds have 8,543 mg.
Fish oil, salmon contains 7828 mg.
Chia seeds yields 7164 mg.
Agutuk, fish with shortening has 6851 mg.
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