Tag Archives: brain function

Foods that promote brain function – Tufts

Eat less; move more; live longer is still the mantra here. We want to live as long as possible and also have a fully functioning brain all the way. I consider exercise to be one of the keys, but certainly diet plays a part, too.

Tufts Food & Nutrition Letter says that the science of whether some dietary choices can be considered brain food or not continues to unfold.

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Given long time-frames of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, it’s challenging to prove any cause and effect relationship between specific foods and brain health. Most such associations are drawn from observational studies, in which people who eat more or less of a certain food are assessed over time for cognitive changes.

It’s obviously difficult to feed a group of study participants lots of, say, blueberries for several years in order to test their brain health at the end; that’s why clinical trials of so-called brain foods have largely depended on animal tests.

Nonetheless, some foods tend to stand out from the pages and pages of research results as most likely being protective for brain health.

Foods That Promote Brain Function

Brain foods typically contain one or more nutrients that scientists believe have positive effects on the brain and/or the cardiovascular system, which in turn affects the brain. These foods include: Continue reading

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Heart Attack Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment Get Fewer Treatments

I guess this would be an example of the old adage, “When it rains, it pours.”

A new study finds people who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which lies on the continuum of cognitive decline between normal cognition and dementia, are less likely to receive proven heart attack treatment in the hospital.

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Researchers found no evidence that those with MCI would derive less benefit from evidence-based treatment that’s offered to their cognitively normal peers who have heart attacks, says lead author Deborah Levine, M.D., MPH.

“Patients should get the treatments they would want if they were properly informed,” says Levine, an associate professor of internal medicine and neurology at Michigan Medicine.

Some people with thinking, memory and language problems have MCI. Unlike dementia, which severely interferes with daily functioning and worsens over time, MCI does not severely interfere with daily functioning and might not worsen over time. Although people with MCI have an increased risk of developing dementia, it’s not an inevitable next step, Levine says.

“While some may progress to dementia, many will persist in having MCI, and a few will actually improve and revert to normal cognition,” says Levine, also a member of the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. “Many older adults with MCI live years with good quality of life, and so face common health risks of aging like heart attack and stroke.

“Clinicians, patients and families might be overestimating the risk of dementia after a mild cognitive impairment diagnosis even without realizing it. These older adults with MCI should still receive evidence-based treatments when indicated.” Continue reading

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Think declining mental sharpness ‘just comes with age’? Think again, say experts

Declining mental sharpness “just comes with age,” right? Not so fast, say geriatrics researchers and clinicians gathered at a prestigious 2018 conference hosted by the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) with support from the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

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In a report published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS), attendees of a conference for the NIA’s Grants for Early Medical/Surgical Specialists Transition into Aging Research (GEMSSTAR) program describe how increasing evidence shows age-related diseases–rather than age itself–may be the key cause of cognitive decline. And while old age remains a primary risk factor for cognitive impairment, researchers believe future research–and sustained funding–could illuminate more complex, nuanced connections between cognitive health, overall health, and how we approach age. Continue reading

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Aging arteries weaken memory – Study

Regular readers know of my concern about aging and its effect on cognition as three of my direct family members suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. For that reason I try to keep my arteries flexible through my program of regular exercise. I know that there is no known way to prevent Alzheimer’s, but I am willing to take any physical measures that I can to reduce my chances. Check out my Page  – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for more details on this subject.

Researchers in Umeå, Sweden, have presented a model that explains why memory deteriorates as the body ages. With age, the brain receives an increased load from the heart’s beating as the body’s large arteries stiffen over the years, causing damage to the smallest blood vessels in the brain.

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The fact that human memory is deteriorating with increasing age is something that most people experience sooner or later, even among those who avoid diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Similarly, a connection between the ageing of the brain and the body is well known. However, the exact nature of this association is not known.

“We suggest a chain of events on how the aging of the brain and vessels are related,” says Lars Nyberg, professor at Umeå University.

What Umeå researchers Lars Nyberg and Anders Wåhlin have created is an explanatory model that starts with the heartbeat, and carries through the largest arteries in the body all the way to the finest vessels in the brain. An important feature of the model is that it provides a rationale why some cognitive processes may be particularly at risk for the proposed mechanism.

As the human body ages, large arteries, such as the aorta, stiffen and lose a large portion of their ability to absorb the pressure increase generated as the heart ejects blood into the arteries. Such pressure pulsatility is instead transmitted to smaller blood vessels, for example those in the brain. The smallest blood vessels in the brain, the capillaries, are subjected to an increased stress that causes damage to cells within and surrounding the capillary walls. These cells are important in the regulation of the capillary blood flow. If the smallest blood vessels are damaged, this is detrimental to the ability to increase the blood supply to the brain when coping with demanding cognitive processes.

According to the researchers’ model, the hippocampus in the brain is particularly vulnerable. The structure in that part of the brain is important for the episodic memory, that is, the ability to remember events from the past. The vulnerability of the hippocampus relates to the fact that it is located close to the large vessels and thus is exposed to the increased load early in the chain. In a young and healthy person, the pulsations are soft, but in an ageing person the pulsations can be so powerful that they affect the brain tissue and can damage the blood supply to memory processes.

The Umeå researchers’ model is based on a number of previous studies from the last five years.

“We have laid the puzzle of current and verified research in different fields to a broader and more detailed picture of the course of events. It will form a starting point for future research to gain a better understanding and, in the long term, researchers may also find solutions to slow down the process,” says Anders Wåhlin.

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Seniors Improve Brain Function by Raising Fitness Level – University of Kansas

Science Daily reported that a professor of neurology at KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center, led a six-month trial conducted with healthy adults ages 65 and older who showed no signs of cognitive decline.

The randomized controlled trial attempted to determine the ideal amount of exercise necessary to achieve benefits to the brain.

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Before proceeding, I would like to add that I am now in my tenth year of writing this blog. To continue that long at a healthy pace (+3000 posts) you have to be motivated and get positive feedback.

Reading about this new study on exercise benefiting the brain was extraordinarily positive feedback. I have written about the benefits of exercise and the brain for several years. You can check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise) for more details. Suffice it to say that the KU report was most welcome. Continue reading

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Teeth brushing may fight Alzheimer’s

As a person with no less than three cases of Alzheimer’s/dementia in his family, I have serious interest in anything relating to maintaining brain health and function. So, I was most interested in this item from the University of Bergen.

You don’t only avoid holes in your teeth by keeping good oral hygiene, researchers at the University of Bergen have discovered a clear connection between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

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The researchers have determined that gum disease (gingivitis) plays a decisive role in whether a person develops Alzheimer’s or not.

“We discovered DNA-based proof that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain,” says researcher Piotr Mydel at Broegelmanns Research Laboratory, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen (UiB).

The bacteria produces a protein that destroys nerve cells in the brain, which in turn leads to loss of memory and ultimately, Alzheimer’s. Continue reading

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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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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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