Tag Archives: cognition

Machine learning gives nuanced view of Alzheimer’s stages

 A Cornell-led collaboration used machine learning to pinpoint the most accurate means, and timelines, for anticipating the advancement of Alzheimer’s disease in people who are either cognitively normal or experiencing mild cognitive impairment.

The modeling showed that predicting the future decline into dementia for individuals with mild cognitive impairment is easier and more accurate than it is for cognitively normal, or asymptomatic, individuals. At the same time, the researchers found that the predictions for cognitively normal subjects is less accurate for longer time horizons, but for individuals with mild cognitive impairment, the opposite is true.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

The modeling also demonstrated that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a useful prognostic tool for people in both stages, whereas tools that track molecular biomarkers, such as positron emission tomography (PET) scans, are more useful for people experiencing mild cognitive impairment.

The team’s paper, “Machine Learning Based Multi-Modal Prediction of Future Decline Toward Alzheimer’s Disease: An Empirical Study,” published Nov. 16 in PLOS ONE. The lead author is Batuhan Karaman, a doctoral student in the field of electrical and computer engineering.

Alzheimer’s disease can take years, sometimes decades, to progress before a person exhibits symptoms. Once diagnosed, some individuals decline rapidly but others can live with mild symptoms for years, which makes forecasting the rate of the disease’s advancement a challenge.

“When we can confidently say someone has dementia, it is too late. A lot of damage has already happened to the brain, and it’s irreversible damage,” said senior author Mert Sabuncu, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering and of electrical engineering in radiology at Weill Cornell Medicine.

“We really need to be able to catch Alzheimer’s disease early on,” Sabuncu said, “and be able to tell who’s going to progress fast and who’s going to progress slower, so that we can stratify the different risk groups and be able to deploy whatever treatment options we have.”

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The psychological effects of your morning coffee – BPS

Many of us use coffee to help us to get going in a morning, or to add a little zing to a flagging workday. But recent research reveals psychological effects that go far beyond boosting alertness, and not all of them are good, according to the British Psychological Society (BPS).

Photo by Daria Obymaha on Pexels.com

The ‘up’ sides

Caffeine in coffee is a central nervous system stimulant. It increases alertness and improves focus and problem-solving. And if you’re someone who ‘uses’ caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, to help you to feel more alert for an exam, there is some evidence that it will help. A study specifically on university students found that caffeine led to a “striking improvement” on memory tests taken in the early morning, which is typically a ‘low’ point for young adults. A separate group of participants who were asked to do some exercise did not show this benefit — so it seems to be down to a direct effect on memory, rather than via a boost to general arousal, the team reports.

Research published last year also expanded the already substantial list of benefits reported for visual processing. The team found that caffeine improved people’s ability to detect moving targets— which could mean reacting more quickly to anything from a pedestrian stepping onto the road to a football hurtling your way during a game of five-a-side.

The ‘down’ side

Beware of drinking coffee before going shopping because this can encourage impulse-buying, according to research published earlier this year. The team found that people who drank just one espresso before going into a shop spent a staggering 50% more money inside than others who’d had a decaf coffee or a drink of water. They were also more likely specifically to go for ‘high hedonic’ items, such as buttery foods or relaxing products, rather than useful things. Why? The caffeine-drinkers reported feeling more excited (due, no doubt, to a misperception of a caffeine-induced faster heart rate as ‘excitement’), and when we are excited, we tend to be more impulsive.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

New studies demonstrate improved cognition and gut health from eating nuts

Researchers are revealing that just four weeks of eating mixed tree nuts could have positive effects on mood, memory and overall thinking capability. This same study and others also found that eating nuts can help to modulate metabolites, bacteria and microbes in the gut, according to Nutrition Insight.

We look at two recent studies – one on mixed nuts and one on almonds – to see how the tree-born treats can best benefit the body, especially hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds. Though all of the nuts on their own have previously been found to have their correlated benefits, the new studies suggest that a mix of many may provide the most noticeable health boosts.

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

One study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, focused on mixed nuts and their effects on cognition and the microbiome. Dr. Crystal Haskell-Ramsay, professor of biological psychology at Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and lead author of the study states, “This study provides exciting evidence for improvements to cognition following only 4-weeks consumption of tree nuts.” 

“Since the study participants were healthy, non-elderly adults, it’s possible that more profound effects may be shown in those at increased risk for cognitive decline or in those with poor gut health,” she adds.

Getting highbrow with hazelnuts
The mixed nut study, funded by the organization INC International Nut and Dried Fruit, is a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind and counterbalanced trial including 76 healthy volunteers from 18 to 49 years of age.

The participants were given 30 g of mix of nuts – 15 g walnuts, 7.5 g hazelnuts and 7.5 g almonds – each day for four weeks, along with one microcrystalline cellulose placebo capsule. Following that, they performed a four-week washout and then switched to two placebo capsules a day for four more weeks.

The cognitive test included word, number, picture and location recall, measuring choice reaction times and accuracy and logical reasoning along with other factors.

The results show “significant increases” in reaction and recall times across all factors, as well as an increased aversion to false selections when recalling the pictures, numbers and words.

An almond a day?
The study further measured the nuts’ effects on the makeup of the microbiome. Researchers took stool and urine samples twice (before and after) during the trial. 

It found that the bacteria Lachnospiraceae was significantly increased through supplementation, which has been found to produce short-chain fatty acids. It also found a 25% increase in the short-chain fatty acid butyrate.

A separate study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that eating roughly 46 almonds a day (about 56 g) can improve butyrate levels in the microbiome, improve overall gut health and act as a source of fiber.Eating 46 almonds a day may greatly improve gut health

“Butyrate is involved in several health-promoting processes such as providing energy to the cells lining the gut, regulation of the immune system and signaling to the cells of the gut to absorb certain nutrients,” Dr. Alice Creedon, lead author of the almond study, recently told NutritionInsight.

Moreover, Dr. Creedon further stated that “due to the effect of almonds on increasing butyrate production, they could be promoted as a snack food that can be consumed to benefit gut health by targeting bacterial metabolism.”

Additionally, higher levels of butyrate in the gut have been linked to decreased bloating, a decreased severity in irritable bowel syndrome symptoms and reduced inflammation in the gut and body.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Mediterranean diet may not reduce dementia risk – Study

A number of studies have suggested that eating a healthy diet may reduce a person’s risk of dementia, but a new study has found that two diets including the Mediterranean diet are not linked to a reduced risk of dementia. The study is published in the October 12, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Photo by Mark Stebnicki on Pexels.com

The Mediterranean diet includes a high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, fish and healthy fats such as olive oil, and a low intake of dairy products, meats and saturated fatty acids.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Omega-3s linked to improved midlife brain structure, cognition

Holy mackerel! Could eating salmon, cod, tuna, herring or sardines keep our brains healthy and our thinking agile in middle age? New research makes this connection.

Eating cold-water fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids may preserve brain health and enhance cognition in middle age, new evidence indicates.

Photo by Oziel Gu00f3mez on Pexels.com

Having at least some omega-3s in red blood cells was associated with better brain structure and cognitive function among healthy study volunteers in their 40s and 50s, according to research published online Oct. 5 in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Faculty of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) and other investigators of the Framingham Heart Study conducted the analysis.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

High blood pressure speeds up mental decline – MHL

People with high blood pressure levels face a faster erosion of their ability to think, make decisions and remember information than those with normal blood pressure levels, a new study finds.

The researchers traced high blood pressure’s association with declining brain function over years, in data from six large studies that they pooled and analyzed. They show that blood pressure-related cognitive decline happens at the same pace in people of Hispanic heritage as in non-Hispanic white people.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com

The team had set out to see if differences in long-term blood pressure control explained why Hispanic people face a 50% higher overall risk of dementia by the end of their life than non-Hispanic white people in the United States.

But the new findings suggest that other factors may play a bigger role in that disparity.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What about seniors drinking alcohol? -NIA


Like all adults, older adults should avoid or limit alcohol consumption. In fact, aging can lead to social and physical changes that make older adults more susceptible to alcohol misuse and abuse and more vulnerable to the consequences of alcohol. Alcohol dependence or heavy drinking affects every organ in the body, including the brain.

Photo by Prem Pal Singh Tanwar on Pexels.com

comprehensive study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that alcohol consumption among older adults, especially women, is on the rise. The researchers also found evidence that certain brain regions show signs of premature aging in alcohol-dependent men and women. In addition, heavy drinking for extended periods of time in older adults may contribute to poor heart health, as shown in this 2016 study. These studies suggest that stopping or limiting the use of alcohol could improve heart health and prevent the accelerated aging seen with heavy alcohol use.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Learning a musical instrument may confer lifelong cognitive benefits

Musical training has long been linked to better general cognitive functioning. Studies investigating everything from the cognitive skills of adult musicians vs non-musicians to the effects of instrument lessons on children’s cognition has come out in support of the idea, according to the British Psychological Society.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

However, relatively few studies have explored whether the benefits last — if, as a child, you have piano lessons, for example, does this have any impact on your cognitive abilities in later life? The results of a new longitudinal study, in Psychological Science, which tested the same people at the ages of 11 and 70, suggest that it does. Cognitive benefits of musical training seem to be evident even decades later.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Musical tests can detect mental deterioration in seniors

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have developed a method that employs musical tests and a portable instrument for measuring brain activity to detect cognitive decline in old age. According to the researchers, the method, which is based on the measurement of 15 minutes of electrical activity in the brain while performing simple musical tasks, can be easily implemented by any staff member in any clinic, without requiring special training.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

The researchers: “Our method enables routine monitoring and early detection of cognitive decline in order to provide treatment and prevent rapid, severe deterioration. Prophylactic tests of this kind are commonly accepted for a variety of physiological problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure or breast cancer; however, to date no method has yet been developed to enable routine, accessible monitoring of the brain for cognitive issues.” The researchers further note that tests of this kind are particularly important in light of increasing longevity and associated growth of the elderly population.

The study was led at Tel Aviv University by PhD student Neta Maimon from the School of Psychological Sciences and the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, and Lior Molcho from Neurosteer Ltd, headed by Prof. Nathan Intrator from the Blavatnik School of Computer Science and the Sagol School of Neuroscience. Other participants included: Adi Sasson, Sarit Rabinowitz, and Noa Regev-Plotnick from the Dorot-Netanya Geriatric Medical Center. The article was published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Insomnia in midlife may manifest as cognitive problems in retirement age

Long-term insomnia symptoms can pose a risk of poorer cognitive functioning later in life. This is why insomnia should be treated as early as possible, according to a new study.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The Helsinki Health Study at the University of Helsinki investigated the development of insomnia symptoms in midlife and their effects on memory, learning ability and concentration after retirement. The follow-up period was 15–17 years.

4 Comments

Filed under cognition, cognitive decline, cognitive impairment, insomnia, midlife

Poor eyesight unfairly mistaken for brain decline

Millions of older people with poor vision are at risk of being misdiagnosed with mild cognitive impairments, according to a new study by the University of South Australia.

Cognitive tests that rely on vision-dependent tasks could be skewing results in up to a quarter of people aged over 50 who have undiagnosed visual problems such as cataracts or age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss for older people. It doesn’t cause complete vision loss, but severely impacts people’s ability to read, drive, cook, and even recognise faces. It has no bearing on cognition.

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, aging brain, aging myths, eyes

Combination of biomarkers can identify common cognitive disease

In recent years, subcortical small-vessel disease has become an increasingly common cognitive diagnosis. Researchers at University of Gothenburg have now shown that it is possible to identify patients with the disease by combining two biomarkers that are measured in spinal fluid and blood, increasing the potential for both treatment and development of medication.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

Subcortical small-vessel disease is one of the most common cognitive diseases, along with Alzheimer’s disease and mixed dementia, which is a form in which Alzheimer’s disease occurs together with vascular damage in the brain.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

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.”

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Key Mental Abilities Can Actually Improve During Aging

It’s long been believed that advancing age leads to broad declines in our mental abilities. Now, new research from Georgetown University Medical Center offers surprisingly good news by countering this view.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

The findings, published August 19, 2021, in Nature Human Behavior, show that two key brain functions, which allow us to attend to new information and to focus on what’s important in a given situation, can in fact improve in older individuals. These functions underlie critical aspects of cognition such as memory, decision making, and self-control, and even navigation, math, language and reading.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Extended Napping in Seniors May Signal Dementia

Daytime napping among older people is a normal part of aging – but it may also foreshadow Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. And once dementia or its usual precursor, mild cognitive impairment, are diagnosed, the frequency and/or duration of napping accelerates rapidly, according to a new study.

Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush on Pexels.com

The study, led by UC San Francisco, and Harvard Medical School together with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, its teaching affiliate, departs from the theory that daytime napping in older people serves merely to compensate for poor nighttime sleep. Instead, it points to work by other UCSF researchers suggesting that dementia may affect the wake-promoting neurons in key areas of the brain, the researchers state in their paper publishing March 17 in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

“We found the association between excessive daytime napping and dementia remained after adjusting for nighttime quantity and quality of sleep,” said co-senior author Yue Leng, MD, PhD, of the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

“This suggested that the role of daytime napping is important itself and is independent of nighttime sleep,” said Leng, who partnered with Kun Hu, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, in senior-authoring the paper.

Watch-Like Devices, Annual Evaluations Used to Measure Naps, Cognition

In the study, the researchers tracked data from 1,401 seniors, who had been followed for up to 14 years by the Rush Memory and Aging Project at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago. The participants, whose average age was 81 and of whom approximately three-quarters were female, wore a watch-like device that tracked mobility. Each prolonged period of non-activity from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. was interpreted as a nap.

2 Comments

Filed under Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's risk, cognition, cognitive decline, cognitive impairment