Most of us know that feeling of trying to retrieve a memory that does not come right away. You might be watching a romantic comedy featuring that famous character actor who always plays the best friend and find yourself unable to recall her name (it’s Judy Greer). While memory retrieval has been the subject of countless animal studies and other neuroimaging work in humans, exactly how the process works — and how we make decisions based on memories — has remained unclear.
In a new study published in the June 26 issue of the journal Science, a collaborative team of neuroscientists from Caltech and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles has identified different sets of individual neurons responsible for memory-based decision-making, a hallmark of the human brain’s flexibility.
If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, perhaps we finally have a follow up for seniors worried about slippage in cognition.
Eating about one serving per day of green, leafy vegetables may be linked to a slower rate of brain aging, according to a study published in the December 20, 2017, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study found that people who ate at least one serving of green, leafy vegetables a day had a slower rate of decline on tests of memory and thinking skills than people who never or rarely ate these vegetables. The difference between the two groups was the equivalent of being 11 years younger in age, according to study author Martha Clare Morris, ScD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. (my emphasis)
“Adding a daily serving of green, leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to foster your brain health,” said Morris. “Projections show sharp increases in the percentage of people with dementia as the oldest age groups continue to grow in number, so effective strategies to prevent dementia are critical.” Continue reading →
As regular readers know, I think we should all exercise regularly to keep our bodies and brains functioning at their best levels. It’s nice to see that the phrase use it or lose it has value on more than one level.
Mount Sinai researchers have found a positive relationship between the brain network associated with working memory—the ability to store and process information relevant to the task at hand—and healthy traits such as higher physical endurance and better cognitive function.
These traits were associated with greater cohesiveness of the working memory brain network while traits indicating sub-optimal cardiovascular and metabolic health, and sub-optimal health habits including binge drinking and regular smoking, were associated with less cohesive working memory networks.
This is the first study to establish the link between working memory and physical health and lifestyle choices.
The results of the study were published online in Molecular Psychiatry on Tuesday, December 5, 2017.
The research team took brain scans of 823 participants in the Human Connectome Project (HCP), a large brain imaging study funded by the National Institutes of Health, while they performed a task involving working memory, and extracted measures of brain activity and connectivity to create a brain map of working memory. The team then used a statistical method called sparse canonical correlation to discover the relationships between the working memory brain map and 116 measures of cognitive ability, physical and mental health, personality, and lifestyle choices. They found that cohesiveness in the working memory brain map was positively associated with higher physical endurance and better cognitive function. Physical traits such as high body mass index, and suboptimal lifestyle choices including binge alcohol drinking and regular smoking, had the opposite association.
“Working memory accounts for individual differences in personal, educational, and professional attainment,” said Sophia Frangou, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Working memory is also one of the brain functions that is severely affected by physical and mental illnesses. Our study identified factors that can either support or undermine the working memory brain network. Our findings can empower people to make informed choices about how best to promote and preserve brain health.”
For the record I got very involved in playing chess in my younger years. I loved the game’s many facets and spent hours poring over the board. Ultimately, I gave it up to play backgammon. I found the element of chance in backgammon to be more appealing. That random aspect coupled with the fact that a lot of people played backgammon for money won me over. That was never the case in chess.
Intelligence – and not just relentless practice – plays a significant role in determining chess skill, indicates a comprehensive new study led by Michigan State University researchers.
The research provides some of the most conclusive evidence to date that cognitive ability is linked to skilled performance – a hotly debated issue in psychology for decades – and refutes theories that expertise is based solely on intensive training.
“Chess is probably the single most studied domain in research on expertise, yet the evidence for the relationship between chess skill and cognitive ability is mixed,” said MSU’s Alexander Burgoyne, lead author on the study. “We analyzed a half-century worth of research on intelligence and chess skill and found that cognitive ability contributes meaningfully to individual differences in chess skill.” Continue reading →