Tag Archives: brain cells

How avocados and nuts could boost intelligence – MNT

Here is some heartening news for folks worried about fats consumption.

You may want to think about adding avocados, olive oil, and nuts to your grocery list, since a new study has suggested that the monounsaturated fatty acids in these foods could boost intelligence.

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Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that higher levels of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) in the blood correlated with greater general intelligence in older adults.

Study leader Aron K. Barbey, a professor of psychology at the university, and colleagues recently reported their results in the journal Neuroimage.

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Brain Detects Disease in Others Even Before it Breaks Out

Because my family history includes both Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, I am fascinated by every aspect of the brain and its functions. The following is from Neuroscience News.

The human brain is much better than previously thought at discovering and avoiding disease, a new study led by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden reports. Our sense of vision and smell alone are enough to make us aware that someone has a disease even before it breaks out. And not only aware – we also act upon the information and avoid sick people. The study is published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

By injecting harmless sections of bacteria, the researchers activated the immune response in participants, who developed the classic symptoms of disease – tiredness, pain and fever – for a few hours, during which time smell samples were taken from them and they were photographed and filmed. The injected substance then disappeared from their bodies and with it the symptoms. NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only.

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DARPA Funds Brain-Stimulation Research to Speed Learning

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency  (DARPA) is working with seven U.S. universities and elements of the Air Force and Army on research that seeks to stimulate the brain in a non-invasive way to speed up learning.

DARPA announced the Targeted Neuroplasticity Training, or TNT, program last March, and work now has begun on the effort to discover the safest and most effective ways to activate a natural process called “synaptic plasticity.”

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Plasticity is the brain’s ability to strengthen or weaken its neural connections to adapt to changes in the environment. For TNT Program Manager Dr. Doug Weber, such plasticity is about learning.

“We’re talking about neural plasticity, or how the neurons, which are the working units in the brain, how their function changes over time as we train on new skills,” he said during a recent interview with Department of Defense News.

Targeted Neuroplasticity Training

TNT research focuses on a specific kind of learning called cognitive skills training. People use cognitive skills to do things like pay attention, process information, do several things at once, detect and understand patterns, remember instructions, organize information and much more. Continue reading

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Genes Associated With Resilience Against Brain Pathology Identified

Having had three family members who suffered from some form of dementia I am highly motivated to find out all I can about this scourge that devastates mostly seniors. The following is from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
Genes help cognition withstand damage in brain from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s

The pathologies (damage) in the brain that stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions cause in older adults only partially explain the memory loss, reduced reasoning ability and other cognitive impairments that result from these conditions. Little is known about why the effects of brain pathology vary between people who develop it.

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Now researchers have discovered two genes, known as UNC5C and ENC1, that are associated with aging individuals having better memory and brain function than would be expected, given the amount of pathologies that accumulated in their brains. They reported their findings in an article published today in the journal PLOS Medicine. Continue reading

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Brain’s Power to Adapt Offers Short-Term Gains, Long-Term Strains

There is not necessarily fresh ground broken here, but I think seeing details on how the brain functions can only be helpful. The most important idea for me is one I had going in, namely, you only have one brain so take care of it.

Like air-traffic controllers scrambling to reconnect flights when a major hub goes down, the brain has a remarkable ability to rewire itself after suffering an injury. However, maintaining these new connections between brain regions can strain the brain’s resources, which can lead to serious problems later, including Alzheimer’s Disease, according to researchers.

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After a head injury, the brain can show enhanced connectivity by using alternative routes between two previously connected regions of the brain that need to communicate, as well as make stronger connections, said Frank G. Hillary, associate professor of psychology, Penn State. These new connections between damaged areas are often referred to as hyperconnections, he added. Continue reading

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Three brain chemicals affect how we handle uncertainty

New research has revealed how three important brain signaling chemicals affect the way that we handle uncertainty. It turns out that noradrenaline regulates our estimates of how unstable the environment is, acetylcholine helps us adapt to changing environments, and dopamine pushes us to act on our beliefs about uncertainty. The research, publishing 15 November in the open-access journal PLOS Biology, was led by Louise Marshall and Dr Sven Bestmann at the UCL (University College London) Institute of Neurology.

The study involved 128 healthy participants who took part in a reaction-time task designed to test how they handled uncertainty. Participants were all given either a placebo or a drug to block noradrenaline, acetylcholine or dopamine before starting the task. Participants responded to symbols that were presented one after the other by pressing a corresponding button. Continue reading

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Brain 10 times more active than previously thought – UCLA study

A new UCLA study could change scientists’ understanding of how the brain works — and could lead to new approaches for treating neurological disorders and for developing computers that “think” more like humans.

The research focused on the structure and function of dendrites, which are components of neurons, the nerve cells in the brain. Neurons are large, tree-like structures made up of a body, the soma, with numerous branches called dendrites extending outward. Somas generate brief electrical pulses called “spikes” in order to connect and communicate with each other. Scientists had generally believed that the somatic spikes activate the dendrites, which passively send currents to other neurons’ somas, but this had never been directly tested before. This process is the basis for how memories are formed and stored.

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Scientists have believed that this was dendrites’ primary role.

But the UCLA team discovered that dendrites are not just passive conduits. Their research showed that dendrites are electrically active in animals that are moving around freely, generating nearly 10 times more spikes than somas. The finding challenges the long-held belief that spikes in the soma are the primary way in which perception, learning and memory formation occur.

“Dendrites make up more than 90 percent of neural tissue,” said UCLA neurophysicist Mayank Mehta, the study’s senior author. “Knowing they are much more active than the soma fundamentally changes the nature of our understanding of how the brain computes information. It may pave the way for understanding and treating neurological disorders, and for developing brain-like computers.”

The research is reported in the March 9 issue of the journal Science.

Scientists have generally believed that dendrites meekly sent currents they received from the cell’s synapse (the junction between two neurons) to the soma, which in turn generated an electrical impulse. Those short electrical bursts, known as somatic spikes, were thought to be at the heart of neural computation and learning. But the new study demonstrated that dendrites generate their own spikes 10 times more often than the somas.

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Researchers Uncover New Agents That Eliminate Cells Tied to Age-Related Diseases – Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic researchers have uncovered three new agents to add to the emerging repertoire of drugs that aim to delay the onset of aging by targeting senescent cells – cells that contribute to frailty and other age-related conditions. A recent study of human cell cultures shows that the drugs, fisetin and two BCL-XL inhibitors – A1331852 and A1155463 – cleared senescent cells in vitro. Findings appear online in Aging.

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“Senescent cells accumulate with age and at sites of multiple chronic conditions, such as in fat tissue in diabetes, the lungs in chronic pulmonary diseases, the aorta in vascular disease, or the joints in osteoarthritis,” says James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging. “At Mayo Clinic, we discovered the first senolytic drugs – agents that selectively eliminate senescent cells while leaving normal cells unaffected. These senolytic agents alleviated a range of age- and disease-related problems in mice. We used the hypothesis-driven approach that we used to discover the first senolytic drugs, two published in early 2015 and another later in 2015, to discover these three new senolytic drugs.” Continue reading

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Portions of the Brain Fall Asleep While we are Awake …

I am blown away by the brain and how it functions in our body and allows us to function. Remember, the brain which accounts for about two percent of our body weight burns around 25 percent of the calories we use in a day. This item from Neuroscience News moves the needle further.

When we are in a deep slumber our brain’s activity ebbs and flows in big, obvious waves, like watching a tide of human bodies rise up and sit down around a sports stadium. It’s hard to miss. Now, Stanford researchers have found, those same cycles exist in wake as in sleep, but with only small sections sitting and standing in unison rather than the entire stadium. It’s as if tiny portions of the brain are independently falling asleep and waking back up all the time.

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What’s more, it appears that when the neurons have cycled into the more active, or “on,” state they are better at responding to the world. The neurons also spend more time in the on state when paying attention to a task. This finding suggests processes that regulate brain activity in sleep might also play a role in attention.

“Selective attention is similar to making small parts of your brain a little bit more awake,” said Tatiana Engel, a postdoctoral fellow and co-lead author on the research, which published Dec. 1 in Science. Former graduate student Nicholas Steinmetz was the other co-lead author, who carried out the neurophysiology experiments in the lab of Tirin Moore, a professor of neurobiology and one of the senior authors. Continue reading

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Heart disease and brain health linked – Harvard

I have written time and again about the link between exercise and brain health. The Harvard Heart Letter has a nice post on how heart disease and brain health are tied together.

“Just like in the rest of your body, advancing years can take a toll on your brain function. Much of this slowing down is predictable and can be chalked up to normal aging. However, when thinking skills become increasingly fuzzy and forgetfulness gets to be a way of life, an early form of dementia known as mild cognitive impairment may be setting in,” so writes Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter.

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“Often, the first reaction is to attribute these changes to the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease. But blood flow problems may be to blame, as well. “An estimated one-third of all cases of dementia, including those identified as Alzheimer’s, can be attributed to vascular factors,” says Dr. Albert Hofman, chair of the department of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Continue reading

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Vitamin D engages longevity gene to increase lifespan – Study

I  have written about the benefits of Vitamin D a number of times. You can check some of the links at the end of this post to read further. Now comes Neuroscience News with a report on  its possible impact on increased longevity.

Research in C. elegans shows the popular supplement engages longevity genes to increase lifespan and prevent the accumulation of toxic proteins linked to many age-related diseases.

A simple Google search for “what does vitamin D do?” highlights the widely used dietary supplement’s role in regulating calcium absorption and promoting bone growth. But now it appears that vitamin D has much wider effects — at least in the nematode worm, C. elegans. Research at the Buck Institute shows that vitamin D works through genes known to influence longevity and impacts processes associated with many human age-related diseases. The study, published in Cell Reports, may explain why vitamin D deficiency has been linked to breast, colon and prostate cancer, as well as obesity, heart disease and depression.

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“Vitamin D engaged with known longevity genes – it extended median lifespan by 33 percent and slowed the aging-related misfolding of hundreds of proteins in the worm,” said Gordon Lithgow, PhD, senior author and Buck Institute professor. “Our findings provide a real connection between aging and disease and give clinicians and other researchers an opportunity to look at vitamin D in a much larger context.” Continue reading

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How Seniors Can Bolster Brain Power

A little background here. I am a senior citizen and I attend health talks at my local teaching hospital, Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Their program is called Healthy Transitions. Around 100 folks show up regularly for the talks. However, when the talk deals with some aspect of mental decline the place is packed. Seems lots of us seniors are worried about cognitive impairment that can lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia. That’s why I have a particular sore spot when it comes to those expensive ‘brain games’ sold by some snake oil sales companies. They prey on the fears of seniors and offer false hope.

So, I was particularly gratified to find in PSYBLOG a post knocking them down. PSYBLOG recommends what they call ‘the oldest technique of all,’ namely “Simply learning new information or using existing knowledge in new ways can help boost attentional skills.”

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Seniors can increase their attention skills the same way as infants and little children

Professor Rachel Wu, who led study on attentional skills, said, “Adults can increase their attention skills by grouping objects into categories, and then using these categories to search for objects more efficiently.

In other words, we can build new knowledge or use existing knowledge to increase our attention. Continue reading

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Why Do You Feel Tired? – Oleda Baker – Guest Post

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As you can see from her photos, Senior Supermodel Oleda Baker is aging magnificently. I interviewed Oleda last December. She is a treasure trove of information on everything this blog stands for, namely weight control, healthy living and healthy aging, so I asked her if she would share some of her ideas with us. She has written 10 books on beauty and health. Her latest, written at the age of 75, Breaking the Age Barrier – Great Looks and Health at Every Age – was released in November 2010 and is available from Amazon or from her website www.oleda.com where she also sells her own line of health and beauty aids.

Being tired not only zaps your brain cells and energy level at the moment – it can also be a sign that your body needs some serious and immediate attention. Unlike the illness known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which can be manifested by headache, tender lymph nodes, weakness, muscle and joint aches and an inability to concentrate, the feeling I’m referring to here is just plain old tiredness. It is a symptom that affects both body and mind. It slows reflexes and reduces function in your day-to-day life.

Staying tired, washed out or exhausted too long can lead to other problems, some serious, so let’s nip it in the bud right now.

American families are so much busier than they used to be. Often both parents are working and there is too much to do in every 24 hours. There is not enough time for sleep and not much time to cook balanced meals. No wonder they feel tired so often.

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I see my daughter-in-law with three children, a husband, a job. She takes care of the house, attends school functions for the children when needed and cooks for the family. My son helps out but he also has a job, helps with the children, takes care of the yard and is on the go with errands. This is typical of households today.

Then there are also those who are not overworked or stressed out but they still feel tired all the time. It’s hard for them to get up in the morning. Some can’t sleep at night so they wake up tired and remain tired all day.

General Reasons For Tiredness:

You may not be able to change your life style this very moment, so here are some things you can do to compensate until then. Listed are ways to fight that never ending tired feeling.

Not enough sleep: There are two parts to “not enough sleep.” They are not enough hours to sleep and insomnia.

Not Enough Sleep: If you feel you can’t find enough hours to sleep… better rethink it. Find some way to get that extra hour or two. In general the body needs about eight hours each night to repair itself for the next day and more so for a long range healthy, longer life. If you wake up feeling groggy instead of refreshed, you’re not getting enough sleep. If you feel sleepy during the day or yawn (off and on) all day you are not getting enough sleep. Don’t minimize the importance of enough sleep, as it will affect your body… anywhere from feeling tired all day to dark circles under the eyes to a breakdown in the immune system which can lead to illnesses.

Insomnia: Insomnia is not only difficulty in falling asleep but also difficulty in staying asleep or sleeping soundly. There can be many causes, and if you cannot solve it on your own check with your doctor and find out why. Without enough sleep other problems could arise. A lack of calcium and magnesium can cause you to wake up after a few hours and not be able to return to sleep. Continue reading

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What are the Mental Benefits of Exercise? – Oleda Baker – Guest Post

Click anywhere to see these full size
Click anywhere to see these full size

As you can see from her photos, Senior Supermodel Oleda Baker is aging magnificently. I interviewed Oleda last December. She is a treasure trove of information on everything this blog stands for, namely weight control, healthy living and healthy aging, so I asked her if she would share some of her ideas with us. She has written 10 books on beauty and health. Her latest, written at the age of 75, Breaking the Age Barrier – Great Looks and Health at Every Age – was released in November 2010 and is available from Amazon or from her website www.oleda.com where she also sells her own line of health and beauty aids.

You might think the most important deterrent to brain cell deterioration is engaging in mind-bending games or doing the daily crossword puzzle. Taxing the brain and learning new skills are excellent activities, but they usually don’t get your heart rate up and pump blood to your brain cells.

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Perhaps the most striking brain research discovery of the last decade is that physical exercise can forestall mental decline. It may even restore memory. Animal studies have shown that aerobic exercise increases capillary development in the brain, increasing blood supply, which carries more oxygen to the brain.

It doesn’t have to be formal exercise at the gym. You can play tennis a couple times a week, ride a bike, or walk a mile each day. A combined program of aerobics and weight training will produce the best results.

Fit people have sharper brains; and people who are out of shape, but then get into shape, sharpen their brains along with their bodies.

It was once thought that brain cells do not regenerate as do other cells of the body, but more modern science learned that neurons do continue to form in the brain, even into old age.

Memory does begin a decline when we reach our 40’s, but the progression is not as steep as originally feared. Indeed, forgetfulness may be due less to brain cell loss than other influences, such as taking care of the kids, the job, paying the bills, doing chores, everyday living all competing for cognitive time.

To keep your brain young you need to give it lots of varied stimulation and challenges. Like a muscle, it needs to be exercised, to “strain the brain,” so to speak. Repeating the same mental functions over and over, such as Sudoku or crossword puzzles or watching television, doesn’t help slow cognitive deterioration. Mental stimulation is as important for your brain as physical exercise is for your body.

Oleda

As so often happens with Oleda’s ideas, they coincide exactly with my own. The only difference is that Oleda has lived longer and more successfully than I have. To read further about the value of exercise to the brain, check out my page Important Facts About Your Brain and Exercise.

Tony

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How to Improve Your Memory – Harvard

The relationship between physical and mental health is very important and one of my favorite topics. I have posted about it numerous times. I have a history of  Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family and want very much to escape the ravages of a brain aging in an unhealthy manner.

Now comes Harvard Medical School with a new study on using everyday habits to keep your memory in good shape.


“A growing body of research indicates that regular exercise and a healthful diet can help protect your memory from aging-related decline.”

Music to my ears.

Harvard Healthbeat says:
“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.
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