Tag Archives: brain function

Is it possible to supercharge memories back to life? – BU Study

As a 79 year old bike rider, I know how much I am counting on exercise to keep my brain intact as I age. So, I was nothing less than amazed to run across the Boston University (BU) study on electrically stimulating brain function in seniors.

BU brain scientist shows electrostimulation can restore a 70-year-old’s working memory to that of a 20-year-old.

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As you read the words stretched across this page, your brain is doing something magnificent. Each sentence lingers in your mind for a fleeting moment, the letters melding into a symphony of neural signals. These intricate electrical rhythms form the language of the brain, a language we have only begun to understand within the last century.

Rob Reinhart, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, says we’ve reached a point where we not only understand this language—we can speak it and harness it to enhance the functioning of the mind. In a groundbreaking study published April 2019 in Nature Neuroscience, Reinhart and BU doctoral researcher John Nguyen demonstrate that electrostimulation can improve the working memory of people in their 70s so that their performance on memory tasks is indistinguishable from that of 20-year-olds.

Reinhart and Nguyen’s research targets working memory—the part of the mind where consciousness lives, the part that is active whenever we make decisions, reason, recall our grocery lists, and (hopefully) remember where we left our keys. Working memory starts to decline in our late 20s and early 30s, Reinhart explains, as certain areas of the brain gradually become disconnected and uncoordinated. By the time we reach our 60s and 70s, these neural circuits have deteriorated enough that many of us experience noticeable cognitive difficulties, even in the absence of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading

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Neuroplasticity – one brainy word

Since I had that nice infographic on the brain yesterday, I thought this one on brain function might be a useful follow-up.

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If you are interested in reading more about that wonderful organ inside your head, feel free to check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits)

Tony

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Physics explains why time flies as we age

Time flies when you’re having fun. As an old timer, I have responded countless times that “Time flies even when you’re not having fun.” So I was most gratified to find this research on exactly that.

A Duke University researcher has a new explanation for why those endless days of childhood seemed to last so much longer than they do now–physics.

According to Adrian Bejan, the J.A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke, this apparent temporal discrepancy can be blamed on the ever-slowing speed at which images are obtained and processed by the human brain as the body ages.

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The end result is that, because older people are viewing fewer new images in the same amount of actual time, it seems to them as though time is passing more quickly. 

The theory was published online on March 18 in the journal European Review. Continue reading

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Emergency and Urgent Hospitalizations Linked to Accelerated Cognitive Decline in Seniors

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.

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“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

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Drawing is Better than Writing for Memory Retention – Study

Regular readers know that I am a senior citizen, turning 79 next month. My family has a history of dementia in general and Alzheimer’s Disease in particular. SO, I am interested in anything that affects the brain and relates to brain function. This study at the University of Waterloo captured my attention.

Researchers report older adults who take up drawing are better able to retain new information than those who write notes.Source: University of Waterloo.

Older adults who take up drawing could enhance their memory, according to a new study.

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As part of a series of studies, the researchers asked both young people and older adults to do a variety of memory-encoding techniques and then tested their recall. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo found that even if people weren’t good at it, drawing, as a method to help retain new information, was better than re-writing notes, visualization exercises or passively looking at images. 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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About that aging brain …

They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but new research shows you can teach an old rat new sounds, even if the lesson doesn’t stick very long.

For the record I wrote a post on that damaging cliche about teaching old dogs new tricks. You can read it here – Of cats and dogs and cliches ….

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) of McGill University examined the effects of aging on neuroplasticity in the primary auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes auditory information. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to modify its connections and function in response to environmental demands, an important process in learning.

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Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. As we grow older, plasticity decreases to stabilize what we have already learned. This stabilization is partly controlled by a neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits neuronal activity. This role of GABA was discovered by K.A.C. Elliot and Ernst Florey at The Neuro in 1956. Continue reading

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Filed under aging, aging brain, aging myths, brain, brain exercise, brain function, brain health, successful aging, Uncategorized

Largest brain study of 62,454 scans identifies drivers of brain aging

One of  my favorite (and most popular) posts is Exercise, Aging and the Brain. I wrote it in 2011 and more than 11,000 people have read it. Because of Alzheimer’s and dementia residing in my immediate family, I am very interested in the brain and anything that affects it. So, this study from Medical Express hit me right where I live.

In the largest known brain imaging study, scientists from Amen Clinics (Costa Mesa, CA), Google, John’s Hopkins University, University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco evaluated 62,454 brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans of more than 30,000 individuals from 9 months old to 105 years of age to investigate factors that accelerate brain aging. SPECT tomography) evaluates regional cerebral blood flow in the brain that is reduced in various disorders.

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Lead author, psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, MD, founder of Amen Clinics, commented, “Based on one of the largest brain imaging studies ever done, we can now track common disorders and behaviors that prematurely age the brain. Better treatment of these disorders can slow or even halt the process of brain aging. The cannabis abuse finding was especially important, as our culture is starting to see marijuana as an innocuous substance. This study should give us pause about it.” Continue reading

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Why some people always focus on the negative – MIT Study

I am a big supporter of Positivity. You can check out my Page, which includes a super graphic video, Positive psychology – What’s it all about? 

The following study was written up by Anne Trafton of the MIT News office.

Many patients with neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety or depression experience negative moods that lead them to focus on the possible downside of a given situation more than the potential benefit.

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MIT neuroscientists have found that stimulating part of the striatum can induce feelings of pessimism. (Anatomography/Life Science Databases)

MIT neuroscientists have now pinpointed a brain region that can generate this type of pessimistic mood. In tests in animals, they showed that stimulating this region, known as the caudate nucleus, induced animals to make more negative decisions: They gave far more weight to the anticipated drawback of a situation than its benefit, compared to when the region was not stimulated. This pessimistic decision-making could continue through the day after the original stimulation. Continue reading

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Your amazing brain – Infographic

I confess, I am blown away by the brain. I took a course in it from The Great Courses and have published a number of posts on it. The direct connection between physical exercise and the brain never ceases to amaze me. You can check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – (and exercise benefits) to read more.

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Tony

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Gut bacteria and you – Infographic

I thought this had some good information in it. I hope you are able to read the explanations.

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How the Brain Processes Temperature Information to Alter Behavior – Harvard

In view of the current heat wave, I thought this study would be of particular interest.

Researchers report on how specific neurons can process sensory information about temperature and facilitate a change in behavior to adapt to the climate.

Do you pause what you’re doing to put on a sweater because you feel chilly? Do you click the thermostat up a few degrees on a winter day? What about keeping a fan on your desk, or ducking into an air-conditioned room to beat the heat?

If so (and, let’s face it, everyone has), then you’ve used sensory information about your environment — the temperature — to alter your behavior.

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Haesemeyer said he plans to work on getting a more detailed picture of the neural circuit in the hind brain that translates heat information into behavior. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

But exactly how the brain processes that information has largely remained a mystery. To shed light on that, a team of researchers led by Martin Haesemeyer, a research associate in the labs of Florian Engert, professor of molecular and cellular biology, and Alexander Schier, the Leo Erikson Life Sciences Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, turned to an unlikely subject: zebrafish. Continue reading

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Obesity Plus Aging Linked to Alzheimer’s Markers in the Brain

A new study reports high sugar and fat based diets that lead to obesity, coupled with the normal aging process, may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. By my reckoning that means the older we get the more we need to pay attention to what we are eating and the amount we are exercising. Eat less; move more; live longer. For heaven’s sake, don’t wait till you are a senior to get on the exercise and good eating regime. Clearly, the earlier you start, the better of you are.

A new study suggests that when a high-fat, high-sugar diet that leads to obesity is paired with normal aging, it may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, researchers discovered that certain areas of the brain respond differently to risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s. The study is published in Physiological Reports.

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Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive brain disorder that leads to loss of cognitive skills and memory and causes significant changes in behavior. Aging is a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Previous studies suggest that diet-related obesity is also associated with development of the disease. Continue reading

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Frequent aerobic exercise cuts schizophrenia negative symptoms – Study

More good news on exercise this morning. Writing in the British Psychological Society Research Digest, Emma Young reports positive news on the move more section of our eat less; move more; live longer mantra.

Aerobic exercise – any activity that gets your heart pumping harder – improves mood, anxiety and memory. It can help people with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. Now there’s evidence, from a randomized controlled trial published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, that a program of regular aerobic exercise also reduces psychopathology in people diagnosed with schizophrenia. And it seems to have a particular impact on so-called “negative” symptoms, such as apathy and loss of emotional feeling, which are not improved by standard drug treatments.

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“[W]hile antipsychotics [drug treatments] are essential in treating schizophrenia, interventions other than antipsychotic treatment…may be needed to achieve better outcomes,” write the authors of the new study, led by Peng-Wei Wang at Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital in Taiwan. Continue reading

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How Your Brain Decides Between Knowledge and Ignorance – Study

Good news and bad news? Which do you want to hear first? Isn’t that always one of the toughest questions ever?

Summary: Researchers report the brain’s reward network could play an influential role in evaluating the opportunity to gain new information, just as it does to evaluate rewards such as food or financial gain. Source: University College London (UCL)

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The researchers found that activity in the brain’s reward system – the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area – in response to the opportunity to receive information about good lotteries, but not about bad lotteries, displayed a pattern similar to what is observed in response to material rewards. This brain signal was independent from the brain response observed when participants found out whether they won or lost the lottery and predicted their preference for information. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

We have a ‘thirst for knowledge’ but sometime ‘ignorance is bliss,’ so how do we choose between these two mind states at any given time?

UCL psychologists have discovered our brains use the same algorithm and neural architecture to evaluate the opportunity to gain information, as it does to evaluate rewards like food or money. Continue reading

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Nouns slow down our speech – Study

As a senior (with dementia in his family tree) who often finds himself searching for words, I was fascinated by this study. Mental glitches can be scary. It’s nice to find out that there isn’t  anything wrong with your brain.

Speakers hesitate or make brief pauses filled with sounds like “uh” or “uhm” mostly before nouns. Such slow-down effects are far less frequent before verbs, as UZH researchers working together with an international team have now discovered by looking at examples from different languages.

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When we speak, we unconsciously pronounce some words more slowly than others, and sometimes we make brief pauses or throw in meaningless sounds like “uhm”. Such slow-down effects provide key evidence on how our brains process language. They point to difficulties when planning the utterance of a specific word. Continue reading

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