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Celebrate Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, let’s remember that we live in the land of the free because of the brave …

Art by Frank Brunner

Tony

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Study: Blood Vessel Damage Could Be an Alzheimer’s Driver

Blood vessel abnormalities in the eye are a major factor in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, according to research from Cedars-Sinai investigators published in the peer-reviewed journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. These changes correspond to changes in the brain, offering a new possibility for early diagnosis.

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“This study provides a new understanding of the vascular changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the retina, the layer of nerve tissue at the back of the eye,” said Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui, PhD, professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Biomedical Sciences at Cedars-Sinai and senior author of the study. “It also points to the damage Alzheimer’s disease causes to the blood vessels in the retina, enabling a new, noninvasive pathway to early diagnosis and monitoring of disease progression.”

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Can exercise lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease?

Getting regular exercise such as cycling, walking, gardening, cleaning and participating in sports may decrease the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, according to new research published in the May 17, 2023, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study found female participants who exercised the most had a 25% lower rate of Parkinson’s disease when compared to those who exercised the least. The study does not prove that exercise lowers the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. It only shows an association.

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“Exercise is a low-cost way to improve health overall, so our study sought to determine if it may be linked to a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, a debilitating disease that has no cure,” said study author Alexis Elbaz, MD, PhD, of the Inserm Research Center in Paris, France. “Our results provide evidence for planning interventions to prevent Parkinson’s disease.”

The study included 95,354 female participants, mostly teachers, with an average age of 49 who did not have Parkinson’s disease at the start of the study. Researchers followed participants for three decades during which 1,074 participants developed Parkinson’s disease.

Over the course of the study, participants completed up to six questionnaires about the types and amounts of physical activity they were getting. They were asked how far they walked and how many flights of stairs they climbed daily, how many hours they spent on household activities as well as how much time they spent doing moderate recreational activities such as gardening and more vigorous activities such as sports.

Researchers assigned each activity a score based on the metabolic equivalent of a task (METs), a way to quantify energy expenditure. For each activity, METs were multiplied by their frequency and duration to obtain a physical activity score of METs-hours per week. For example, a more intense form of exercise like cycling was six METs, while less intense forms of exercise such as walking and cleaning were three METs. The average physical activity level for participants was 45 METs-hours per week at the start of the study.

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Frivolous Friday …

Tony

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Dementia study reveals how toxic proteins spread through brain

Fresh insights into the spread of damaging proteins that build up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease could hold the key to stopping the condition progressing, a study says.

Researchers have discovered that synapses, which send essential signals through the brain, are also transporting toxic proteins known as tau around the brain.

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Large clumps of the protein tau – called tangles – form in brain cells and are one of the defining features of Alzheimer’s disease. As these tangles spread through the brain during the disease there is a decline in brain function.

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Tetris reveals how people respond to unfair AI

A Cornell University-led experiment in which two people play a modified version of Tetris revealed that players who get fewer turns perceived the other player as less likable, regardless of whether a person or an algorithm allocated the turns.

Most studies on algorithmic fairness focus on the algorithm or the decision itself, but researchers sought to explore the relationships among the people affected by the decisions.

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“We are starting to see a lot of situations in which AI makes decisions on how resources should be distributed among people,” said Malte Jung, associate professor of information science, whose group conducted the study. “We want to understand how that influences the way people perceive one another and behave towards each other. We see more and more evidence that machines mess with the way we interact with each other.”

In an earlier study, a robot chose which person to give a block to and studied the reactions of each individual to the machine’s allocation decisions.

“We noticed that every time the robot seemed to prefer one person, the other one got upset,” said Jung. “We wanted to study this further, because we thought that, as machines making decisions becomes more a part of the world – whether it be a robot or an algorithm – how does that make a person feel?”

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Loneliness has same risk as smoking for heart disease – Harvard

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Artificial intelligence identifies anti-aging drug candidates targeting ‘zombie’ cells

new publication in the May issue of Nature Aging by researchers from Integrated Biosciences, a biotechnology company combining synthetic biology and machine learning to target aging, demonstrates the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to discover novel senolytic compounds, a class of small molecules under intense study for their ability to suppress age-related processes such as fibrosis, inflammation and cancer. The paper,“Discovering small-molecule senolytics with deep neural networks,” authored in collaboration with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, describes the AI-guided screening of more than 800,000 compounds to reveal three drug candidates with comparable efficacy and superior medicinal chemistry properties than those of senolytics currently under investigation.

Senolytics are an emerging class of investigational drug compounds that selectively kill aging-associated senescent cells (left, with red stain) without affecting other cells (right). Using artificial intelligence, researchers from Integrated Biosciences have, for the first time, identified three senolytics with comparable efficacy and superior drug-like properties relative to leading investigational compounds.

“This research result is a significant milestone for both longevity research and the application of artificial intelligence to drug discovery,” said Felix Wong, Ph.D., co-founder of Integrated Biosciences and first author of the publication. “These data demonstrate that we can explore chemical space in silico and emerge with multiple candidate anti-aging compounds that are more likely to succeed in the clinic, compared to even the most promising examples of their kind being studied today.”

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You are what you eat: healthier diet may improve fitness

A healthy diet is associated with greater physical fitness in middle-aged adults, according to research published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).1

“This study provides some of the strongest and most rigorous data thus far to support the connection that better diets may lead to higher fitness,” said study author Dr. Michael Mi of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, US. “The improvement in fitness we observed in participants with better diets was similar to the effect of taking 4,000 more steps each day.”

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Cardiorespiratory fitness reflects the body’s ability to provide and use oxygen for exercise, and it integrates the health of multiple organ systems, such as the heart, lungs, blood vessels and muscles. It is one of the most powerful predictors of longevity and health.2 While exercise increases cardiorespiratory fitness, it is also the case that among people who exercise the same amount, there are differences in fitness, suggesting that additional factors contribute. A nutritious diet is associated with numerous health benefits, but it has been unclear whether it is also related to fitness.

This study examined whether a healthy diet is associated with physical fitness in community-dwelling adults. The study included 2,380 individuals in the Framingham Heart Study. The average age was 54 years and 54% were women. Participants underwent a maximum effort cardiopulmonary exercise test on a cycle ergometer to measure peak VO2. This is the gold standard assessment of fitness and indicates the amount of oxygen used during the highest possible intensity exercise.

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Sleep apnea, lack of deep sleep linked to worse brain health

People who have sleep apnea and spend less time in deep sleep may be more likely to have brain biomarkers that have been linked to an increased risk of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline, according to new research published in the May 10, 2023, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study does not prove that these sleep disturbances cause the changes in the brain, or vice versa. It only shows an association.

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The study looked at sleep factors and biomarkers of the health of the brain’s white matter. The biomarkers measure how well the brain’s white matter is preserved, which is important to connect different parts of the brain. One of the biomarkers, white matter hyperintensities, are tiny lesions visible on brain scans. White matter hyperintensities become more common with age or with uncontrolled high blood pressure. The other biomarker measures the integrity of the axons, which form the nerve fibers that connect nerve cells.

“These biomarkers are sensitive signs of early cerebrovascular disease,” said study author Diego Z. Carvalho, MD, MS, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Finding that severe sleep apnea and a reduction in slow-wave sleep are associated with these biomarkers is important since there is no treatment for these changes in the brain, so we need to find ways to prevent them from happening or getting worse.”

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Frivolous Friday …

Tony

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Virginia Tech neuroscientist offers insight into how loneliness can affect health

Efforts are underway to address the “epidemic of loneliness and isolation” affecting the country, as recently addressed by the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy who is laying out a “National Strategy to Advance Social Connection” initiative.

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Virginia Tech neuroscientist Georgia Hodes says that reports of depression and anxiety are up at least 3-fold since the start of the COVID epidemic. “While loneliness and isolation are likely contributors, the COVID infection itself triggers a depressive episode in approximately 20 percent of people. Understanding how infection impacts mood may help us find new ways to treat individuals that do not fully respond to current antidepressants.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, social isolation and loneliness have been linked to increased risk for heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety, suicidality and self-harm, dementia, and earlier death.

Hodes’ research explores biomarkers and treatments for depression that target the body’s immune response system. For studies linking loneliness and isolation to effects on the brain, she points to one study that showed “people who reported they were lonely but were otherwise healthy adults had greater pro-inflammatory immune responses to acute stress and immune activation. The data suggests that loneliness is priming the immune system to react more strongly to stress.”

Hodes says that most studies on loneliness in humans have been done in older adults. She points to a recent study by Isabelle F. van der Velpen et al, that used MRI images from the Rotterdam study to examine the relationship between loneliness and brain matter volume. “At baseline higher loneliness scores were associated with decreased white matter volume. Perceived social support correlated positively with total brain and grey matter volume. In general, though there is little on perceived loneliness and specific changes in brain structures in humans.”

“One of the most replicated findings is perceived loneliness in humans is related to higher levels of the cytokine IL-6 in the periphery. Previously, in mice we reported that altering IL-6 produced in the periphery by the white blood cells could induce or block the effects of stress on social behavior” says Hodes. “This is a protein that has increased levels when someone is sick. The human data suggest that loneliness is putting people into a constant state of low-grade inflammation which may then promote social withdrawal, depression and/or anxiety.”

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Many consumers make unhealthy choices, but ‘uptrend messaging’ can help drive healthy behavior

Good nutrition and regular exercise can help prevent disease, but substantial evidence shows that only a minority of consumers adequately engage in these and other recommended healthy behaviors. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, only 10 percent of Americans eat enough vegetables, 13 percent get enough fruit and 24 percent exercise adequately.

As a result, many healthy behaviors are what experts would consider “descriptively non-normative,” meaning most people don’t follow the recommendations by engaging in them.  

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In an effort to help marketers design messages to encourage healthy choices, new research from the University of Notre Dame introduces “uptrend messaging.” Rather than focusing on the fact that most consumers don’t follow the recommendations, it instead emphasizes the positive — that the percentage engaging in healthy behaviors is increasing.

The Uptrend Effect: Encouraging Healthy Behaviors Through Greater Inferred Normativity” is forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing Research from John Costello and Frank Germann, marketing professors in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, along with Aaron Garvey from the University of Kentucky and James Wilkie, a senior data scientist at Fetch Rewards Inc. 

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Exercise may reduce negative effects of unhealthy sleep duration on longevity

Sleeping too little or too long is linked with a shorter life, but scientists have found that physical activity counteracts some of these negative effects. The research in more than 90,000 adults is published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).1

“The study showed that increased physical activity levels weakened the mortality risks associated with short or long sleep duration,” said study author Dr. Jihui Zhang of The Affiliated Brain Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, China.

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Both sufficient exercise and healthy sleep contribute to prolonged life expectancy. However, it has been unclear how physical activity may interact with sleep duration to promote health. The main limitation of previous studies was the use of self-reported physical activity and sleep, which is subjective and may be inaccurate. In contrast, an accelerometer device records movement, thereby providing objective and more reliable estimates of activity and sleep duration.

This was the first study to examine the joint effects of physical activity and sleep duration on mortality risk using accelerometry. The study included 92,221 adults aged 40 to 73 years in the UK Biobank cohort who wore an accelerometer wristband for one week between 2013 and 2015.

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Excessive daytime napping linked with elevated risk of heart rhythm disorder

Daytime napping for 30 minutes or longer is associated with an increased likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation, according to research presented at ESC Preventive Cardiology 2023, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).1

“Our study indicates that snoozes during the day should be limited to less than 30 minutes,” said study author Dr. Jesus Diaz-Gutierrez of Juan Ramon Jimenez University Hospital, Huelva, Spain. “People with disturbed night-time sleep should avoid relying on napping to make up the shortfall.”

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Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder, affecting more than 40 million people worldwide. People with this arrhythmia have a five times greater risk of stroke than their peers. Dr. Diaz-Gutierrez said: “Previous studies have suggested that sleep patterns may play a role in the development of atrial fibrillation, but as far as we know this was the first study to analyse the relationship between daytime napping and risk of the arrhythmia.”

The study used data from the University of Navarra Follow-up (SUN) Project, a prospective cohort of Spanish university graduates. A total of 20,348 participants free of atrial fibrillation at baseline completed a questionnaire every two years. Information was obtained on sociodemographics (age, sex, working hours), medical conditions (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnoea, cardiovascular diseases including atrial fibrillation), lifestyle (napping, smoking, exercise, coffee intake, binge drinking, adherence to a Mediterranean diet, TV watching), height and weight.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

My mom passed away several years ago, but I would like to wish all of you mothers out there a Happy Mother’s Day!

Each of you has been a manifestation of Wonder Woman to your children from Day One.

Whoever we are, have become or will be, we couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks!

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I stumbled across this artwork on the web and have no clue as to the artist. If anyone knows, please let me know and I will publish it.

Tony

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