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.
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
Eat less; move more; live longer is the mantra here. Apparently, it also leads to think better, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) seems to think so.
Did you know that the health of your brain and your heart are connected? By keeping your heart healthy, you also lower your risk for brain problems such as stroke and dementia. Learn more about the connection between the heart and brain and steps to take to keep both healthy.
Heart disease, stroke, and vascular dementia are preventable. Take steps to reduce your risk.
- Control your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Over time, high blood pressure puts too much stress on blood vessels. Scientists now know that having uncontrolled high blood pressure in midlife also raises your risk for dementia later in life. Know your numbers by getting your blood pressure checked regularly. If your blood pressure is high, work with your doctor, nurse, or health care team to manage it. One way to manage your blood pressure is to take your medicines as prescribed. Learn more ways to manage blood pressure.
- Eat healthy foods and limit alcohol. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and include seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon) each week. Limit foods with added sugars and saturated fats, and lower your sodium (salt) intake. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure, which can lead to stroke and increase the risk of some kinds of heart disease.
- Get diabetes under control. Diabetes causes high blood sugar, which can damage blood vessels and nerves. This damage raises the risk for heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking damages blood vessels and makes blood more likely to clot, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, learn how to quit.
- Stay active. Lack of physical activity can lead to high blood pressure and obesity. Most Americans don’t meet guidelines of getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Find ways to get your heart pumping for at least 150 minutes per week. Take the stairs, schedule a walk at lunch, or do jumping jacks during commercial breaks. Learn more about how to get enough physical activity.
Since I had that nice infographic on the brain yesterday, I thought this one on brain function might be a useful follow-up.
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)
I love this infographic of the brain. Surprisingly, they left out one of the most impressive facts to me, namely, that the brain burns 20 to 25 percent of our daily calories. Bigger than any single muscle.
Before you go, please check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for a lot more details on this major organ in our body.
In the nearly 10 years of writing this blog I have come to believe that use it or lose it is an unassailable law of the body. And what applies to the body often carries over to the brain. As I have mentioned previously, my family has dementia in general and Alzheimer’s in particular on both sides, so keeping a clear head really resonates with me.
Keeping physically and mentally active in middle age may be tied to a lower risk of developing dementia decades later, according to a study published in the medical journal Neurology. Mental activities included reading, playing instruments, singing in a choir, visiting concerts, gardening, doing needlework or attending religious services.
“These results indicate that these activities in middle age may play a role in preventing dementia in old age and preserving cognitive health,” said study author Jenna Najar, MD, from Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.
“It’s exciting as these are activities that people can incorporate into their lives pretty easily and without a lot of expense.” Continue reading
I know this looks utterly simple, but sometimes we overlook the simplest things/ideas that could be very helpful to us. Please take a minute to go over this and ensure that you are, in fact, doing them.
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.
“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
The number of people living with dementia globally more than doubled between 1990 and 2016 from 20.2 million to 43.8 million, prompting researchers to call for more preventative action.
A new paper published in The Lancet Neurology also found that 22.3 per cent of healthy years lost due to dementia in 2016 were due to modifiable risk factors.
Prepared by academics across multiple institutions and led by the University of Melbourne and the University of Washington, the paper looked at the global, regional and national burden of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias from 1990-2016.
The systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 found dementia was more common at older ages, with the prevalence doubling every five years over age 50. There was also significant potential for prevention.
“In our study, 22.3 per cent (11.8 – 35.1 per cent) of the total global disability-adjusted life years lost due to dementia in 2016 could be attributed to the four modifiable risk factors – being overweight, high blood sugar, consuming a lot of sugar sweetened beverages and smoking,” the authors said.
Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. It is good to learn from Harvard, no less, that moving more also helps to keep our brain intact and functioning.
There are plenty of good reasons to be physically active. Big ones include reducing the odds of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Maybe you want to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, prevent depression, or just look better. Here’s another one, which especially applies to those of us (including me) experiencing the brain fog that comes with age: exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills.
In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.
The finding comes at a critical time. Researchers say one new case of dementia is detected every four seconds globally. They estimate that by the year 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia worldwide. Continue reading
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.
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
Breath-focused meditation and yogic breathing practices have numerous known cognitive benefits, including increased ability to focus, decreased mind wandering, improved arousal levels, more positive emotions, decreased emotional reactivity, along with many others. To date, however, no direct neurophysiological link between respiration and cognition has been suggested.
The research shows for the first time that breathing – a key element of meditation and mindfulness practices – directly affects the levels of a natural chemical messenger in the brain called noradrenaline. This chemical messenger is released when we are challenged, curious, exercised, focused or emotionally aroused, and, if produced at the right levels, helps the brain grow new connections, like a brain fertilizer. The way we breathe, in other words, directly affects the chemistry of our brains in a way that can enhance our attention and improve our brain health.
Studying DNA from more than 1.5 million people, an international team of researchers — led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of California, San Francisco — has identified points of DNA that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and also heighten the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, according to an article in Neuroscience News.
Scientists have long been aware of connections between variations of the APOE gene, which is involved in cholesterol and lipid metabolism, and Alzheimer’s disease. That gene is known to double the risk for Alzheimer’s disease in some patients and increase risk by up to 12 times in others. But in the new study, the researchers identified other DNA points that also appear to be involved both in cardiovascular disease risk and the risk for Alzheimer’s. Continue reading
I have written so many times about the benefits of exercise on the body and brain that this almost seems repetitious. On the other hand, it is nice to see the exact hormones at work.
On the off chance that you are not familiar with it, please check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – (and exercise benefits.)
I am guilty of being a coffee lover. I am so bad that when I see someone on TV carrying a cardboard cup of the brew, I am tempted to make some for myself. So, the following was good news for me.
Scientists have now proved that drinking certain types of coffee can be beneficial to brain health, but how does this popular brew support cognitive function? A new study identifies some of the mechanisms that allow coffee to keep mental decline at bay.
According to data from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, about 54 percent of all adults in the United States drink coffee on a daily basis.
While drinking coffee can bring both benefits and risks for a person’s health, a 2016 study from the University of Ulster in Coleraine, United Kingdom, concluded that the health benefits of moderate coffee consumption “clearly outweigh” the potential risks.
One of these benefits is that coffee seems to protect the brain against cognitive impairments and boost thinking skills. Continue reading
A team of scientists has successfully trained a new artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm to make accurate predictions regarding cognitive decline leading to Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Mallar Chakravarty, a computational neuroscientist at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, and his colleagues from the University of Toronto and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, designed an algorithm that learns signatures from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), genetics, and clinical data. This specific algorithm can help predict whether an individual’s cognitive faculties are likely to deteriorate towards Alzheimer’s in the next five years.
“At the moment, there are limited ways to treat Alzheimer’s and the best evidence we have is for prevention. Our AI methodology could have significant implications as a ‘doctor’s assistant’ that would help stream people onto the right pathway for treatment. For example, one could even initiate lifestyle changes that may delay the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or even prevent it altogether,” says Chakravarty, an Assistant Professor in McGill University’s Department of Psychiatry. Continue reading