Tag Archives: brain function

“Good cholesterol’ particles may have a role in Alzheimer’s prevention

First-ever study to measure high-density lipoprotein particle numbers in spinal fluid led by Keck School of Medicine of USC

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Medical guidelines meant to reduce risk for heart disease focus on levels of cholesterol in the blood, including low-density lipoproteins (LDL), labeled “bad cholesterol,” and high-density lipoproteins (HDL), labeled as “good.” Now, a new study suggests an important connection between good cholesterol particles in cerebrospinal fluid and brain health as well.

Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC took samples of cerebrospinal fluid from people aged 60 and older and measured the amount of small HDL particles in each sample. The team found that a higher number of these particles in the fluid is associated with two key indicators that the particles might have a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease.

One indicator is better performance on cognitive tests. The other indicator is higher circulating levels in the cerebrospinal fluid of a particular peptide — like a protein, but smaller — called amyloid beta 42. Although that peptide contributes to Alzheimer’s disease when it misfolds and clumps onto neurons, an increased concentration circulating around the brain and spine is actually linked to lower risk for the disease.

“This study represents the first time that small HDL particles in the brain have been counted,” said Hussein Yassine, M.D., an associate professor of medicine and neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “They may be involved with the clearance and excretion of the peptides that form the amyloid plaques we see in Alzheimer’s disease, so we speculate that there could be a role for these small HDL particles in prevention.”

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Scientists discover genetic variants that speed up and slow down brain aging

Researchers from a USC-led consortium have discovered 15 “hot spots” in the genome that either speed up brain aging or slow it down — a finding that could provide new drug targets to resist developmental delays, Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative brain disorders, according to the University of Southern California (USC).

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The research appeared online in Nature Neuroscience.

“The big game-changer here is discovering locations on the chromosome that speed up or slow down brain aging in worldwide populations. These can quickly become new drug targets,” said Paul Thompson of USC, a lead author on the study and the co-founder and director of the ENIGMA Consortium. “Through our AI4AD [Artificial Intelligence for Alzheimer’s Disease] initiative we even have a genome-guided drug repurposing program to target these and find new and existing drugs that help us age better.”

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Anti-Inflammatory Diet May Be Best Bet for Cognitive Health

As people age, inflammation within their immune system increases, damaging cells. A new study shows that people who consumed an anti-inflammatory diet that includes more fruits, vegetables, beans, and tea or coffee, had a lower risk of developing dementia later in life. The research is published in the November 10, 2021, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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“There may be some potent nutritional tools in your home to help fight the inflammation that could contribute to brain aging,” said study author Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, PhD, of National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. “Diet is a lifestyle factor you can modify, and it might play a role in combating inflammation, one of the biological pathways contributing to risk for dementia and cognitive impairment later in life.”

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The beginning of a new paradigm for understanding the brain – HBP

“The way we study the brain has changed fundamentally in recent years,” says first author Katrin Amunts, Human Brain Project (HBP) Scientific Director, Director of the C. and O. Vogt-Institute of Brain Research, Düsseldorf and Director at the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine at Research Centre Jülich. “In the past, separate communities have often focused on specific aspects of neuroscience, and the problem was always how to link the different worlds, for example, in order to explain a certain cognitive function in terms of the underlying neurobiology.”

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The HBP has brought together communities from different disciplines and countries to work collaboratively on common goals. In the new eNeuro article „Linking brain structure, activity and cognitive function through computation”, the HBP researchers outline their scientific approach and illustrate the potential of the EBRAINS infrastructure for neuroscience research.

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Cognitive decline key factor in predicting life expectancy in Alzheimer’s

Cognitive decline is the biggest factor in determining how long patients with Alzheimer’s Disease will live after being diagnosed, according to a new study from researchers at UT Southwestern. The findings, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, are a first step that could help health care providers provide reliable prediction and planning assistance for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and their families.

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Using a National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center dataset on 764 autopsy-confirmed cases, C. Munro Cullum, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Neurological Surgery, and first author Jeffrey Schaffert, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in clinical neuropsychology at UT Southwestern, identified seven factors that helped predict life expectancy variances among participants. These factors are the most predictive of how many years of life remain after diagnosis.

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Memory formation influenced by how brain networks develop during youth

  • As our brains mature, two key memory regions’ precise communication boost formation of lasting memories
  • Study suggests how ‘your brain is learning to multitask as you get older’
  • ‘By understanding how something comes to be — memory, in this instance — it gives us windows into why it eventually falls apart’

In a new, rare study of direct brain recordings in children and adolescents, a Northwestern Medicine scientist and colleagues from Wayne State University have discovered as brains mature, the precise ways by which two key memory regions in the brain communicate make us better at forming lasting memories. The findings also suggest how brains learn to multitask with age. 

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The study was published Feb. 15 in Current Biology.

Historically, a lack of high-resolution data from children’s brains have led to gaps in our understanding of how the developing brain forms memories. The study innovated the use of intracranial electroencephalogram (iEEG) on pediatric patients to examine how brain development supports memory development. 

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Three biggest risk factors for dementia – AHA

Nearly half of all dementia cases in the U.S. may be linked to a dozen modifiable risk factors – most notably high blood pressure, obesity and physical inactivity, according to new research reported by the American Heart Association (AHA). The findings suggest a large portion of dementia cases could be prevented, especially among Black and Hispanic adults, who had the highest percentage of combined risk factors.

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“There are things people can do that can raise or lower their individual risk” for dementia, said Mark Lee, a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He led the study presented Friday at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health conference.

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High blood pressure in younger adults linked to midlife brain changes

Research Highlights:

  • Younger adults (ages 20-40) with high blood pressure had brain changes by midlife (average age 55) that may increase their risk of cognitive decline later in life or over time.
  • These changes were similar across all races and ethnic groups examined in the study when accounting for the degree of high blood pressure exposure.
  • The findings suggest health care professionals consider more aggressive high blood pressure treatment for younger adults to prevent brain changes in later life.
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High blood pressure among younger adults, ages 20-40 years, appears to be linked to brain changes in midlife (average age 55) that may increase risk for later cognitive decline, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2022, a world premier meeting for researchers and clinicians dedicated to the science of stroke and brain health to be held in person in New Orleans and virtually, Feb. 8-11, 2022.

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Heart attack survivors could experience more rapid brain function declines

Cognitive function declines faster in people who have heart attacks than in those who don’t, new research shows, suggesting that preventing heart attacks could help preserve brain health.

The study is one of the first to look at how sudden cardiac events such as heart attacks affect brain function over the short and long term. The findings will be presented next week at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference. The research is considered preliminary until the full findings are published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“For too long, we have thought about and addressed heart disease and brain disease as two separate conditions,” lead study author Dr. Michelle C. Johansen said in a news release. She is an assistant professor of cerebrovascular neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

“We need to realize that what’s going on in the heart and brain are related. Managing risk factors to prevent a heart attack is actually good for your brain as well,” she said.

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Exercise may save your aging brain – Study

I can’t even guess how many times I have written about the benefits physical exercise has on the brain as well as the body. I would also like to repeat that my family has numerous occurrences of dementia, in general, and Alzheimer’s, in particular. My aunt and her sister both suffered from those afflictions. My father was fine and his life ended with no cognitive afflictions. However, his father was afflicted. He used to wander off and the police would pick him up and call my father to come get him. Remember, this was the early 1940’s. Additionally, while my father was fine, his sister and her daughter both had cognitive impairment. Hence, my interest in preserving my cognitive abilities into my old age.

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So, I was gratified to read the latest findings on Alzheimer’s and Dementia from the Alzheimer’s Association.

As HealthDay News reported, “Exercise helps you stay fit, hale and hearty, and researchers say it may also help you stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Now they have a better understanding of the hidden benefits that aid the brain.
“Older folks who are more physically active have higher levels of a protein that promotes better communication between the brain’s synapses, a new study reports.”
People as old as 80’s and 90’s whose brains were riddles with amyloid plaques had better mental functions if they were more active.
The study indicated that physical activity can promote resilience in the brain.
“If you can keep brain cells healthy and communicating longer, you may slow the changes you would see in disease or you may be able to decrease the vulnerability of the brain to other injury or other insult,” Heather Snyder, vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association said.
To read further on the subject, check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits).

Tony

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Exercise alters brain chemistry to protect aging synapses

When elderly people stay active, their brains have more of a class of proteins that enhances the connections between neurons to maintain healthy cognition, a UC San Francisco study has found.

This protective impact was found even in people whose brains at autopsy were riddled with toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Riding with my dog on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. The annual Bike the Drive when the city closes the Drive to autos and lets us bike riders ‘have a turn.’

“Our work is the first that uses human data to show that synaptic protein regulation is related to physical activity and may drive the beneficial cognitive outcomes we see,” said Kaitlin Casaletto, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology and lead author on the study, which appears in the January 7 issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The beneficial effects of physical activity on cognition have been shown in mice but have been much harder to demonstrate in people.

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Researchers boost human mental function with brain stimulation

Researchers show it is possible to improve specific human brain functions related to self-control and mental flexibility by merging artificial intelligence with targeted electrical brain stimulation.

In a pilot human study, researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital show it is possible to improve specific human brain functions related to self-control and mental flexibility by merging artificial intelligence with targeted electrical brain stimulation.

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Alik Widge, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and member of the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction at the U of M Medical School, is the senior author of the research published in Nature Biomedical Engineering. The findings come from a human study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston among 12 patients undergoing brain surgery for epilepsy — a procedure that places hundreds of tiny electrodes throughout the brain to record its activity and identify where seizures originate.

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Minimal Effort Required: Ten-Minute Run Can Boost Brain Processing

Researchers at the University of Tsukuba show that increased activation of the bilateral prefrontal cortex accompanies improvements to mood and cognitive function after only a brief bout of moderate-intensity running.

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Running may be a useful activity to undertake for better mental health. University of Tsukuba researchers have found that only ten minutes of moderate-intensity running increases local blood flow to the various loci in the bilateral prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that plays an important role in controlling mood and executive functions. These findings may contribute to the development of a wider range of treatment recommendations to benefit mental health.

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Researchers boost human mental function with brain stimulation

Study indicates this method could be a new approach to treating a variety of severe mental illnesses.

Researchers show it is possible to improve specific human brain functions related to self-control and mental flexibility by merging artificial intelligence with targeted electrical brain stimulation.

In a pilot human study, researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital show it is possible to improve specific human brain functions related to self-control and mental flexibility by merging artificial intelligence with targeted electrical brain stimulation.

Alik Widge, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and member of the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction at the U of M Medical School, is the senior author of the research published in Nature Biomedical Engineering. The findings come from a human study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston among 12 patients undergoing brain surgery for epilepsy — a procedure that places hundreds of tiny electrodes throughout the brain to record its activity and identify where seizures originate.

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Using Tools Improves Our Language Skills

Our ability to understand the syntax of complex sentences is one of the most difficult language skills to acquire. In 2019, research had revealed a correlation between being particularly proficient in tool use and having good syntactic ability. A new study, by researchers from Inserm, CNRS, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 and Université Lumière Lyon 2 in collaboration with Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, has now shown that both skills rely on the same neurological resources, which are located in the same brain region. Furthermore, motor training using a tool improves our ability to understand the syntax of complex sentences and – vice-versa – syntactic training improves our proficiency in using tools. These findings could be applied clinically to support the rehabilitation of patients having lost some of their language skills. This study is published in November 2021 in the journal Science.

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Language has long been considered a very complex skill, mobilizing specific brain networks. However, in recent years, scientists have revisited this idea.

Research suggests that brain areas, which control certain linguistic functions, such as the processing of word meanings, are also involved in controlling fine motor skills. However, brain imaging had not provided evidence of such links between language and the use of tools. Paleo-neurobiology[1] has also shown that the brain regions associated with language had increased in our ancestors during periods of technological boom, when the use of tools became more widespread.

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Greater Exposure to Estrogen May Protect Women’s Brain Regions Vulnerable to Alzheimer’s

The drop in estrogen levels that occurs with menopause brings declines in the volumes of “gray matter,” the cellular matter of the brain, in key brain regions that are also affected in Alzheimer’s disease. But a new study from Weill Cornell Medicine researchers, in collaboration with the University of Arizona, suggests that greater cumulative exposure to estrogen in life, for example from having had more children or from having taken menopause hormone therapy, may counter this brain-shrinking effect.

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The findings, reported Nov. 3 in Neurology, come from an analysis of personal histories, MRI scans and cognitive tests on 99 women in their late 40s to late 50s. The researchers confirmed an earlier finding linking menopause to lower gray matter volume (GMV) in brain areas that are vulnerable to Alzheimer’s. But they also linked indicators of higher overall estrogen exposure, such as a longer span of reproductive years (menarche to menopause), more children and the use of menopause hormone therapy and hormonal contraceptives, to higher GMV in some of these brain areas.

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