Tag Archives: cognitive decline

Orienteering can train the brain, may help fight cognitive decline

The sport of orienteering, which draws on athleticism, navigational skills and memory, could be useful as an intervention or preventive measure to fight cognitive decline related to dementia, according to new research from McMaster University.

Researchers hypothesized that the physical and cognitive demands of orienteering, which integrates exercise with navigation, may stimulate parts of the brain that our ancient ancestors used for hunting and gathering. The brain evolved thousands of years ago to adapt to the harsh environment by creating new neural pathways. 

Photo by Supushpitha Atapattu on Pexels.com

Those same brain functions are not as necessary for survival today due to modern conveniences such as GPS apps and readily available food. Researchers suggest it is a case of “use it or lose it.”

“Modern life may lack the specific cognitive and physical challenges the brain needs to thrive,” says Jennifer Heisz, Canada Research Chair in Brain Health and Aging at McMaster University, who supervised the research. “In the absence of active navigation, we risk losing that neural architecture.”

Heisz points to Alzheimer’s disease, in which losing the ability to find one’s way is among the earliest symptoms, affecting half of all afflicted individuals, even in the mildest stage of the disease.

In the study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers surveyed healthy adults, ranging in age from 18 to 87 with varying degrees of orienteering expertise (none, intermediate, advanced and elite).

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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

Two Alzheimer’s drugs tested head-to-head in first-ever virtual clinical trial

An estimated 6.2 million Americans ages 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease. The national Alzheimer’s Association predicts that number to grow to 13.8 million by 2060, barring the development of medical breakthroughs that would prevent, slow or cure the debilitating disease.

Scientists may be one step closer to such a breakthrough thanks to a first-of-its-kind computer model that successfully simulated a clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of multiple treatments for Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

“We’re calling this a virtual clinical trial, because we used real, de-identified patient data to simulate health outcomes,” said Wenrui Hao, associate professor of mathematics at Penn State, who is lead author and principal investigator on the study published in the September issue of the journal PLoS Computational Biology. “What we found aligns almost exactly with findings in prior clinical trials, but because we were using a virtual simulation, we had the added benefit of directly comparing the efficacy of different drugs over longer trial periods.”

Using clinical and biomarker data, the researchers built a computational causal model to run virtual trials on the FDA-approved treatment aducanumab, as well as another promising therapy under evaluation, donanemab. The two drugs are some of the first treatments designed to work directly on what may cause the disease, instead of just treating the symptoms.

Leave a comment

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

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

Thyroid Problems Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia

Older people with hypothyroidism, also called underactive thyroid, may be at increased risk of developing dementia, according to a study published in the July 6, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The risk of developing dementia was even higher for people whose thyroid condition required thyroid hormone replacement medication.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones. This can slow metabolism. Symptoms include feeling tired, weight gain and sensitivity to cold.

Leave a comment

Filed under aging brain, brain function, Thyroid gland, thyroid gland slowing

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

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

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

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

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

Mental Speed Hardly Changes over a Lifespan

Mental speed – the speed at which we can deal with issues requiring rapid decision-making – does not change substantially over decades. Psychologists at Heidelberg University have come to this conclusion. Under the leadership of Dr Mischa von Krause and Dr Stefan Radev, they evaluated data from a large-scale online experiment with over a million participants. The findings of the new study suggest that the speed of cognitive information processing remains largely stable between the ages of 20 and 60, and only deteriorates at higher ages. The Heidelberg researchers have hereby called into question the assumption to date that mental speed starts to decline already in early adulthood.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

“The common assumption is that the older we get, the more slowly we react to external stimuli. If that were so, mental speed would be fastest at the age of about twenty and would then decline with increasing age,” says Dr von Krause, a researcher in the Quantitative Research Methods department headed by Prof. Dr Andreas Voß at Heidelberg University’s Institute of Psychology. In order to verify this theory, the researchers re-evaluated data from a large-scale American study on implicit biases. In the online experiment with over a million participants, subjects had to press a button to sort pictures of people into the categories “white” or “black” and words into the categories “good” or “bad”. According to Dr von Krause, the content focus was of minor importance in the Heidelberg study. Instead, the researchers used the large batch of data as an example of a response-time task to measure the duration of cognitive decisions.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

Coffee could lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease – Study

Good news for those of us who can’t face the day without their morning flat white: a long-term study has revealed drinking higher amounts of coffee may make you less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

As part of the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study of ageing, researchers from Edith Cowan University (ECU) investigated whether coffee intake affected the rate of cognitive decline of more than 200 Australians over a decade.

Lead investigator Dr. Samantha Gardener said results showed an association between coffee and several important markers related to Alzheimer’s disease.

“We found participants with no memory impairments and with higher coffee consumption at the start of the study had lower risk of transitioning to mild cognitive impairment — which often precedes Alzheimer’s disease — or developing Alzheimer’s disease over the course of the study,” she said.

1 Comment

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

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s?

Memory problems are often one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s. Symptoms vary from person to person, and may include problems with:

  • Word-finding, or having more trouble coming up with words than other people the same age.
  • Vision and spatial issues, like awareness of the space around them.
  • Impaired reasoning or judgment, which can impact decisions.

Other symptoms may be changes in the person’s behavior, including:

  • Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks.
  • Repeating questions.
  • Trouble handling money and paying bills.
  • Wandering and getting lost.
  • Losing things or misplacing them in odd places.
  • Mood and personality changes.
  • Increased anxiety and/or aggression.

How Is Alzheimer’s Diagnosed and Treated?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

As a senior citizen one of my most serious concerns is my mental functioning. My mother and her sister were afflicted with forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease. Also, my father’s father suffered cognitive problems in the 1940’s. Finally, my father’s sister and her daughter, my cousin had forms of dementia. It runs in my family and judging by the number of cases reported, there is a chance it runs in yours, too.

Here is what Alzheimers.gov has to say on the subject:

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. People with Alzheimer’s also experience changes in behavior and personality.

More than 6 million Americans, many of them age 65 and older, are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease. That’s more individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease than the population of a large American city. Many more people experience Alzheimer’s in their lives as family members and friends of those with the disease.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease — changes in thinking, remembering, reasoning, and behavior — are known as dementia. That’s why Alzheimer’s is sometimes referred to as “dementia.” Other diseases and conditions can also cause dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common cause of dementia in older adults.

Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. It’s the result of complex changes in the brain that start years before symptoms appear and lead to the loss of brain cells and their connections.

What Causes Alzheimer’s?

The causes of Alzheimer’s disease are not yet fully understood, but probably include a combination of:

  • Age-related changes in the brain, like shrinking, inflammation, blood vessel damage, and breakdown of energy within cells, which may harm neurons and affect other brain cells.
  • Changes or differences in genes, which may be passed down by a family member. Both types of Alzheimer’s — the very rare early-onset type occurring between age 30 and mid-60s, and the most common late-onset type occurring after a person’s mid-60s — can be related to a person’s genes in some way. Many people with Down syndrome, a genetic condition, will develop Alzheimer’s as they age and may begin to show symptoms in their 40s.
  • Health, environmental, and lifestyle factors that may play a role, such as exposure to pollutants, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized