Tag Archives: brain health

A brain mechanism underlying the evolution of anxiety

Monoamine neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine play important roles in our cognitive and emotional functions. Their evolutionary origins date back to metazoans, and while the function of related genes is strongly evolutionarily conserved, genetic variation within and between species has been reported to have a significant impact on animal mental characteristics such as sociality, aggression, anxiety, and depression.

A research group led by Dr Daiki Sato and Professor Masakado Kawata has previously reported that the vesicular monoamine transporter 1 (VMAT1) gene, which transports neurotransmitters to secretory vesicles in neurons and secretory cells, has evolved through natural selection during human evolution. In particular, the 136th amino acid locus of this gene has evolved in the human lineage from asparagine (Asn) to threonine (Thr), and moreover, a new allele (isoleucine, Ile) has emerged and increased in its frequencies around the world. Previous reports suggested that people with the Ile genotype are less prone to depression and anxiety than those with the Thr genotype, but it was unclear how these human-specific mutations function in the brain and lead to changes in neuropsychiatric behavior.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Social isolation impacts brain function in significant ways

Social isolation rewires the brain in myriad ways, potentially leading to anxiety, depression, addiction, and other behavioral changes. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2021, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health. 

Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

Humans are a highly social species who crave social contact for their well-being. Loneliness induced by social isolation can cause significant neurological and behavioral changes that may lead to health issues. Given the widespread experience of loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need to better understand and prevent the long-term effects of social isolation. Scientists are just beginning to understand these changes and hope to find ways to curb their negative effects. 

Today’s new findings show:

  • Young mice exposed to chronic social isolation demonstrated a long-term deficit in social recognition and an altered circuit between the prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens (Yong-Seok Lee, Seoul National University College of Medicine).
  • Social isolation in adolescent mice led to increased cocaine use and relapse rates, as well as sex-dependent structural changes in the prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens (Lisa A. Briand, Temple University).
  • Social isolation in young rats led to an increase in weight, anxiety, and dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens, but exercise mitigated anxiety and weight gain (Enrique U. Pérez-Cardona, University of Puerto Rico at Carolina).
  • Lower social rank in mice is predictive of greater alcohol intake, but social isolation increases intake for all mice — regardless of rank — and increases the excitability of the basolateral amygdala (Reesha R. Patel, Salk Institute for Biological Studies).
  • A socially monogamous prairie vole model mimicked human responses after the loss of a partner; these behavioral changes may be linked to disturbances in the brain’s oxytocin system (Adam S. Smith, University of Kansas).

“This research shows that social isolation impacts many brain regions and affects many different behaviors, resulting in increased risk for disease,” said Alexa H. Veenema, the director of the Neurobiology of Social Behavior Laboratory and an associate professor at Michigan State University. “The pandemic has had a tremendous effect on our mental health. This research will provide us with insights about which specific neural circuits mediate the behavioral effects induced by social isolation. We can then find ways to restore these neural circuits, counteracting the consequences of social isolation”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

9 ways to protect your heart and brain from the summer heat -AHA

Your favorite summertime playlist probably has more songs about surfing than about potential health risks. But with much of the nation having already sweated out a historic heat wave in June, health experts would like to add a note of caution to the mix.

Photo by murat esibatir on Pexels.com

Hot weather is like a stress test for your heart, said Dr. Lance Becker, chair of emergency medicine at Northwell Health, a health care provider in New York. And some people respond poorly to such stress. “They could have a heart attack. Their congestive heart failure symptoms could get much worse. Or they could have an arrhythmia,” the medical term for an irregular heartbeat.

The risk to your heart and brain can be serious.

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Why is music good for the brain? – Harvard

Can music really affect your well-being, learning, cognitive function, quality of life, and even happiness, asks Harvard Health Publishing in a recent blog post. I have to confess that as a daily bike rider who plays music on a blue tooth speaker while riding, I was very happy to learn this.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A recent survey on music and brain health conducted by AARP revealed some interesting findings about the impact of music on cognitive and emotional well-being:

  • Music listeners had higher scores for mental well-being and slightly reduced levels of anxiety and depression compared to people overall.
  • Of survey respondents who currently go to musical performances, 69% rated their brain health as “excellent” or “very good,” compared to 58% for those who went in the past and 52% for those who never attended.
  • Of those who reported often being exposed to music as a child, 68% rated their ability to learn new things as “excellent” or “very good,” compared to 50% of those who were not exposed to music.
  • Active musical engagement, including those over age 50, was associated with higher rates of happiness and good cognitive function.
  • Adults with no early music exposure but who currently engage in some music appreciation show above average mental well-being scores.

Let’s take a closer look at this study

3 Comments

Filed under aging brain, brain

“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

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

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.”

Leave a comment

Filed under aging brain, brain, brain function, cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol

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).

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

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.”

4 Comments

Filed under aging brain, brain, brain exercise, brain function, brain health, brain research

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.

Photo by meo on Pexels.com

“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.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under aging brain, brain

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.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

“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.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

New theory lets us predict when soft materials will fail

Researchers led by a team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently announced a major theoretical and experimental breakthrough that allows scientists to predict, with an unprecedented precision, when a soft material will crack and fail. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have immediate implications for the engineering and manufacture of a wide range of polymers. They also provide insights into how natural soft materials—such as the connective tissues in our bodies and even our brains—break down.

Photo by Karl Solano on Pexels.com

It has proved devilishly complex to predict when a soft material, such as a gel or elastomer, will crack and fail. “It’s been a mystery,” says Alfred Crosby, professor of polymer science and engineering at UMass Amherst and one of the paper’s senior authors. Because scientists haven’t been able to accurately predict when a soft material will fail, designers typically over-engineer their products and recommend replacing them earlier rather than later, just to be safe. “But if we could predict exactly when a product would fail, and under what conditions,” says Crosby, “we could engineer materials in the most efficient way to meet those conditions.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Brain images show less injury and look healthier in adults with heart-healthy lifestyle

Research Highlights:

  • On imaging tests, brains were larger (the brain usually shrinks in size with increasing age and health conditions) and showed fewer signs of injury in early to late middle-aged people (ages 40-69 years) who had higher scores for cardiovascular health.
  • An analysis of more than 35,000 adults with no history of stroke or dementia found that maintaining good cardiovascular health, in addition to protecting against heart attack and stroke, appeared to also be beneficial to overall brain health.
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

On imaging tests, brains were larger and showed fewer signs of injury in early to late middle-aged adults (ages 40-69 years) who had nearly ideal cardiovascular health, 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under exercise and brain health, exercise benefits, Healthy brain, heart health brain health, how the brain ages

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.
Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

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.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

10 Early signs of Alzheimer’s Disease – Rush

Why it’s important to look beyond memory loss, and which behaviors to watch for. In my experience, everyone over 50 years old is concerned about their memory and cognitive powers.

Your dad just asked the same question he asked — and you answered — a few minutes ago. You realize that it’s not the first time he’s repeated himself or forgotten something you just said. What does this mean? Does he have Alzheimer’s disease?

Photo by luizph on Pexels.com

Memory changes can be scary, both as an older adult experiencing them and as a family member or caregiver noticing them. But it’s important to note that forgetfulness doesn’t necessarily equal Alzheimer’s disease.

“The red flag is if it’s happening on a consistent basis and is paired with a change in the person’s ability to function,” says Magdalena Bednarczyk, MD, a geriatrician at Rush University Medical Center. “When a patient comes to me for an evaluation, it’s usually because family and friends have noticed uncharacteristic or concerning behaviors, not just memory issues.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized