Memory6

With Fat: What's Good or Bad for the Heart, May Be the Same for the Brain

May 18, 2012

Science Daily/Brigham and Women's Hospital

It has been known for years that eating too many foods containing "bad" fats, such as saturated fats or trans fats, isn't healthy for your heart. However, according to new research from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), one "bad" fat -- saturated fat -- was found to be associated with worse overall cognitive function and memory in women over time. By contrast, a "good" fat -- mono-unsaturated fat was associated with better overall cognitive function and memory.

 

The research team analyzed data from the Women's Health Study -- originally a cohort of nearly 40,000 women, 45 years and older. The researchers focused on data from a subset of 6,000 women, all over the age of 65. The women participated in three cognitive function tests, which were spaced out every two years for an average testing span of four years. These women filled out very detailed food frequency surveys at the start of the Women's Health Study, prior to the cognitive testing.

 

"When looking at changes in cognitive function, what we found is that the total amount of fat intake did not really matter, but the type of fat did," explained Olivia Okereke, MD, MS, BWH Department of Psychiatry.

 

Women who consumed the highest amounts of saturated fat, which can come from animal fats such as red meat and butter, compared to those who consumed the lowest amounts, had worse overall cognition and memory over the four years of testing. Women who ate the most of the monounsaturated fats, which can be found in olive oil, had better patterns of cognitive scores over time.

 

"Our findings have significant public health implications," said Okereke. "Substituting in the good fat in place of the bad fat is a fairly simple dietary modification that could help prevent decline in memory."

 

Okereke notes that strategies to prevent cognitive decline in older people are particularly important. Even subtle declines in cognitive functioning can lead to higher risk of developing more serious problems, like dementia and Alzheimer disease.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120518081358.htm

Physical activity keeps hippocampus healthy those at risk for Alzheimer's disease

April 23, 2014

Science Daily/University of Maryland

A study of older adults at increased risk for Alzheimer's disease shows that moderate physical activity may protect brain health and stave off shrinkage of the hippocampus- the brain region responsible for memory and spatial orientation that is attacked first in Alzheimer's disease. Dr. J. Carson Smith, a kinesiology researcher in the University of Maryland School of Public Health who conducted the study, says that while all of us will lose some brain volume as we age, those with an increased genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease typically show greater hippocampal atrophy over time. The findings are published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

 

"The good news is that being physically active may offer protection from the neurodegeneration associated with genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Smith suggests. "We found that physical activity has the potential to preserve the volume of the hippocampus in those with increased risk for Alzheimer's disease, which means we can possibly delay cognitive decline and the onset of dementia symptoms in these individuals. Physical activity interventions may be especially potent and important for this group."

 

Dr. Smith and colleagues, including Dr. Stephen Rao from the Cleveland Clinic, tracked four groups of healthy older adults ages 65-89, who had normal cognitive abilities, over an 18-month period and measured the volume of their hippocampus (using structural magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI) at the beginning and end of that time period. The groups were classified both for low or high Alzheimer's risk (based on the absence or presence of the apolipoprotein E epsilon 4 allele) and for low or high physical activity levels.

 

Of all four groups studied, only those at high genetic risk for Alzheimer's who did not exercise experienced a decrease in hippocampal volume (3%) over the 18-month period. All other groups, including those at high risk for Alzheimer's but who were physically active, maintained the volume of their hippocampus.

 

"This is the first study to look at how physical activity may impact the loss of hippocampal volume in people at genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease," says Dr. Kirk Erickson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. "There are no other treatments shown to preserve hippocampal volume in those that may develop Alzheimer's disease. This study has tremendous implications for how we may intervene, prior to the development of any dementia symptoms, in older adults who are at increased genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease."

 

Individuals were classified as high risk for Alzheimer's if a DNA test identified the presence of a genetic marker -- having one or both of the apolipoprotein E-epsilon 4 allele (APOE-e4 allele) on chromosome 19 -- which increases the risk of developing the disease. Physical activity levels were measured using a standardized survey, with low activity being two or fewer days/week of low intensity activity, and high activity being three or more days/week of moderate to vigorous activity.

 

"We know that the majority of people who carry the APOE-e4 allele will show substantial cognitive decline with age and may develop Alzheimer's disease, but many will not. So, there is reason to believe that there are other genetic and lifestyle factors at work," Dr. Smith says. "Our study provides additional evidence that exercise plays a protective role against cognitive decline and suggests the need for future research to investigate how physical activity may interact with genetics and decrease Alzheimer's risk."

 

Dr. Smith has previously shown that a walking exercise intervention for patients with mild cognitive decline improved cognitive function by improving the efficiency of brain activity associated with memory. He is planning to conduct a prescribed exercise intervention in a population of healthy older adults with genetic and other risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and to measure the impact on hippocampal volume and brain function.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423102746.htm

 

Exercise may be the best medicine for Alzheimer's disease

July 30, 2013

Science Daily/University of Maryland

Regular, moderate exercise could improve memory and cognitive function in those at risk for Alzheimer's disease in a way no drug can. Scientists studied the effects of exercise on a group of older adults with mild cognitive impairment and found that brain activity associated with memory, measured by neuroimaging, improved after 12 weeks of a moderate exercise program.

 

New research out of the University of Maryland School of Public Health shows that exercise may improve cognitive function in those at risk for Alzheimer's by improving the efficiency of brain activity associated with memory. Memory loss leading to Alzheimer's disease is one of the greatest fears among older Americans. While some memory loss is normal and to be expected as we age, a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, signals more substantial memory loss and a greater risk for Alzheimer's, for which there currently is no cure.

 

The study, led by Dr. J. Carson Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, provides new hope for those diagnosed with MCI. It is the first to show that an exercise intervention with older adults with mild cognitive impairment (average age 78) improved not only memory recall, but also brain function, as measured by functional neuroimaging (via fMRI). The findings are published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

 

"We found that after 12 weeks of being on a moderate exercise program, study participants improved their neural efficiency -- basically they were using fewer neural resources to perform the same memory task," says Dr. Smith. "No study has shown that a drug can do what we showed is possible with exercise."

 

Recommended Daily Activity: Good for the Body, Good for the Brain

 

Two groups of physically inactive older adults (ranging from 60-88 years old) were put on a 12-week exercise program that focused on regular treadmill walking and was guided by a personal trainer. Both groups -- one which included adults with MCI and the other with healthy brain function -- improved their cardiovascular fitness by about ten percent at the end of the intervention. More notably, both groups also improved their memory performance and showed enhanced neural efficiency while engaged in memory retrieval tasks.

 

The good news is that these results were achieved with a dose of exercise consistent with the physical activity recommendations for older adults. These guidelines urge moderate intensity exercise (activity that increases your heart rate and makes you sweat, but isn't so strenuous that you can't hold a conversation while doing it) on most days for a weekly total of 150 minutes.

 

Measuring Exercise's Impact on Brain Health and Memory

 

One of the first observable symptoms of Alzheimer's disease is the inability to remember familiar names. Smith and colleagues had study participants identify famous names and measured their brain activation while engaged in correctly recognizing a name -- e.g., Frank Sinatra, or other celebrities well known to adults born in the 1930s and 40s. "The task gives us the ability to see what is going on in the brain when there is a correct memory performance," Smith explains.

 

Tests and imaging were performed both before and after the 12-week exercise intervention. Brain scans taken after the exercise intervention showed a significant decrease in the intensity of brain activation in eleven brain regions while participants correctly identified famous names. The brain regions with improved efficiency corresponded to those involved in the pathology of Alzheimer's disease, including the precuneus region, the temporal lobe, and the parahippocampal gyrus.

 

The exercise intervention was also effective in improving word recall via a "list learning task," i.e., when people were read a list of 15 words and asked to remember and repeat as many words as possible on five consecutive attempts, and again after a distraction of being given another list of words.

 

"People with MCI are on a very sharp decline in their memory function, so being able to improve their recall is a very big step in the right direction," Smith states.

 

The results of Smith's study suggest that exercise may reduce the need for over-activation of the brain to correctly remember something. That is encouraging news for those who are looking for something they can do to help preserve brain function.

 

Dr. Smith has plans for a larger study that would include more participants, including those who are healthy but have a genetic risk for Alzheimer's, and follow them for a longer time period with exercise in comparison to other types of treatments. He and his team hope to learn more about the impact of exercise on brain function and whether it could delay the onset or progression of Alzheimer's disease.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130730123249.htm

 

Memory fitness program improves memory abilities of oldest adults

August 31, 2011

Science Daily/University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences

Who hasn't forgotten someone's name, misplaced their glasses or walked into a room and not remembered why they entered? Normal age-related memory decline affects more than half of all seniors, and those over 80 are the most vulnerable.

 

A new UCLA study has found that a memory fitness program offered to older adults in their senior living communities helped improve their ability to recognize and recall words, benefitting their verbal learning and retention.

 

Published in the September issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, the study also found that as a result of the program, seniors' self-perceived memory improved, an important factor in maintaining a positive outlook on life while aging. The average age of participants in the study was 81.

 

"It was exciting to see how much older adults participate in a memory fitness program and improve," said study author Dr. Karen Miller, an associate clinical professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. "The study demonstrates that it's never too late to learn new skills to enhance one's life."

 

As people get older, it takes longer to learn new information and to retrieve it, including names, dates, the location of household objects, meetings, and appointments, according to the study's senior author, Dr. Gary Small, UCLA's Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging and director of the UCLA Longevity Center.

 

The six-week, 12-session program differed from other cognitive training courses in that it offered not only memory-training techniques but also education about lifestyle factors that may impact memory ability and overall brain health. Participants learned stress-reduction exercises and were instructed about the importance of daily physical exercise and maintaining a healthy diet rich in antioxidants.

 

Among the older adults attending the classes, the researchers found marked improvement in verbal memory, as well as improvements in how they perceived their memory, compared with the controls.

 

"We found that the memory fitness program was readily accepted by residents in our senior living communities and that it directly benefited many of them," said John Parrish, Ph.D., executive director of the Erickson Foundation. "In fact, we are now offering the program in nearly all of our 16 communities across the nation."

 

"The study suggests that the memory fitness program may be a cost-effective means of addressing some of the memory-related concerns of healthy older adults," Parrish added.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110829131310.htm

 

Keeping up your overall health may keep dementia away

July 13, 2011

Science Daily/American Academy of Neurology

Improving and maintaining health factors not traditionally associated with dementia, such as denture fit, vision and hearing, may lower a person's risk for developing dementia, according to a new study.

 

"Our study suggests that rather than just paying attention to already known risk factors for dementia, such as diabetes or heart disease, keeping up with your general health may help reduce the risk for dementia," said study author Kenneth Rockwood, MD, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

 

The study found that each health problem increased a person's odds of developing dementia by 3.2 percent compared to people without such health problems. Older adults without health problems at baseline had an 18 percent chance to become demented in 10 years, while such risk increased to 30 percent and 40 percent in those who had 8 and 12 health problems, respectively.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110713161824.htm

Common irregular heartbeat raises risk of dementia

August 30, 2011

Science Daily/Group Health Research Institute

The most common kind of chronically irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, is associated with a greater risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study.

 

"Both atrial fibrillation and dementia increase with age," said Sascha Dublin, MD, PhD, a Group Health Research Institute assistant investigator who led the research. "Before our prospective cohort study, we knew that atrial fibrillation can cause stroke, which can lead to dementia. Now we've learned that atrial fibrillation may increase dementia risk in other, more subtle ways as well."

 

The results of Dr. Dublin's study suggest a relationship between atrial fibrillation and dementia beyond the connection through stroke. The people in the study had a mean age of 74 years when the study began. None had dementia or a history of stroke. At the beginning of the study, 4.3 percent had atrial fibrillation, and an additional 12.2 percent developed it during the study.

 

In the course of the study, 18.8 percent developed some type of dementia. People with atrial fibrillation were more likely to have other cardiovascular risk factors and disease than were those without the condition. So the researchers looked to see if atrial fibrillation increased dementia risk more than just through its association with other kinds of heart disease.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110808104621.htm

Probing the Secrets of Sharp Memory in Old Age

March 24, 2010

Science Daily/American Chemical Society

A study of the brains of people who stayed mentally sharp into their 80s and beyond challenges the notion that brain changes linked to mental decline and Alzheimer's disease are a normal, inevitable part of aging.

 

In a presentation given at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Fransisco March 23, Changiz Geula, Ph.D. and colleagues described their discovery of elderly people with super-sharp memory -- so-called "super-aged" individuals -- who somehow escaped formation of brain "tangles."

 

The tangles consist of an abnormal form of a protein called "tau" that damages and eventually kills nerve cells. Named for their snarled, knotted appearance under a microscope, tangles increase with advancing age and peak in people with Alzheimer's disease.

 

"This discovery is very exciting," said Geula, principal investigator of the Northwestern University Super Aging Project and a professor of neuroscience at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center. "It is the first study of its kind and its implications are vast.

 

We always assumed that the accumulation of tangles is a progressive phenomenon throughout the normal aging process. Healthy people develop moderate numbers of tangles, with the most severe cases linked to Alzheimer's disease. But now we have evidence that some individuals are immune to tangle formation.

 

The evidence also supports the notion that the presence of tangles may influence cognitive performance. Individuals with the fewest tangles perform at superior levels. Those with more appear to be normal for their age."’

 

The scientists found that super-aged people appear to fall into two subgroups: Those who are almost immune to tangle formation and those that have few tangles.

 

"One group of super-aged seems to dodge tangle formation," Geula explained. "Their brains are virtually clean, which doesn't happen in normal-aged individuals. The other group seems to get tangles but it's less than or equal to the amount in the normal elderly. But for some reason, they seem to be protected against its effects."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100323212139.htm

 

Use of Bright Lighting May Improve Dementia Symptoms for Elderly Persons

June 11, 2008

Science Daily/JAMA and Archives Journals

The use of daytime bright lighting to improve the circadian rhythm of elderly persons was associated with modest improvement in symptoms of dementia, and the addition of the use of melatonin resulted in improved sleep, according to a new study.

 

"In elderly patients with dementia, cognitive decline is frequently accompanied by disturbances of mood, behavior, sleep, and activities of daily living, which increase caregiver burden and the risk of institutionalization," the author write. These symptoms have been associated with disturbances of the circadian rhythm (the regular recurrence, in cycles of about 24 hours, of biological processes or activities).

 

"The circadian timing system is highly sensitive to environmental light and the hormone melatonin and may not function optimally in the absence of their synchronizing effects. In elderly patients with dementia, synchronization may be [diminished] if light exposure and melatonin production are reduced."

 

Melatonin reduced the time to fall asleep by a relative 19 percent and increased total sleep duration by 6 percent, but adversely affected caregiver ratings of withdrawn behavior and mood expressions. The addition of bright light improved the adverse effect on mood. In combination with bright light, melatonin reduced aggressive behavior by a relative 9 percent.

 

"In conclusion, the simple measure of increasing the illumination level in group care facilities [improved] symptoms of disturbed cognition, mood, behavior, functional abilities, and sleep. Melatonin improved sleep, but its long-term use by elderly individuals can only be recommended in combination with light to suppress adverse effects on mood.

 

The long-term application of whole-day bright light did not have adverse effects, on the contrary, and could be considered for use in care facilities for elderly individuals with dementia," the authors write.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080610161247.htm

Copper on the brain at rest

November 26, 2014

Science Daily/DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Proper copper levels are essential to the health of the brain at rest, new research shows. The brain consumes 20-percent of the oxygen taken in through respiration. This high demand for oxygen and oxidative metabolism has resulted in the brain harboring the body's highest levels of copper, as well as iron and zinc. Over the past few years, researchers have developed a series of fluorescent probes for molecular imaging of copper in the brain.

 

In recent years it has been established that copper plays an essential role in the health of the human brain. Improper copper oxidation has been linked to several neurological disorders including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Menkes' and Wilson's. Copper has also been identified as a critical ingredient in the enzymes that activate the brain's neurotransmitters in response to stimuli. Now a new study by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has shown that proper copper levels are also essential to the health of the brain at rest.

 

"The results of our study show that there are significant and similar preventive effects of PE and CT," the authors conclude. "Our finding suggests that delaying the intervention does not increase the risk of chronic PTSD…Thus, a delayed intervention is an acceptable option when early clinical interventions cannot be provided (e.g., during wars, disasters, or continuous hostilities)."

 

The results of this study suggest that the mismanagement of copper in the brain that has been linked to Wilson's, Alzheimer's and other neurological disorders can also contribute to misregulation of signaling in cell−to-cell communications.

 

"Our results hold therapeutic implications in that whether a patient needs copper supplements or copper chelators depends on how much copper is present and where in the brain it is located," Chang says. "These findings also highlight the continuing need to develop molecular imaging probes as pilot screening tools to help uncover unique and unexplored metal biology in living systems."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141126124411.htm

Trouble Sleeping? It May Affect Your Memory Later On

February 14, 2012

Science Daily/American Academy of Neurology

The amount and quality of sleep you get at night may affect your memory later in life, according to research that was recently released and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans April 21 to April 28, 2012.

 

"Disrupted sleep appears to be associated with the build-up of amyloid plaques, a hallmark marker of Alzheimer's disease, in the brains of people without memory problems," said study author Yo-El Ju, MD, with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Further research is needed to determine why this is happening and whether sleep changes may predict cognitive decline."

 

Researchers tested the sleep patterns of 100 people between the ages of 45 and 80 who were free of dementia. Half of the group had a family history of Alzheimer's disease. A device was placed on the participants for two weeks to measure sleep. Sleep diaries and questionnaires were also analyzed by researchers.

 

After the study, it was discovered that 25 percent of the participants had evidence of amyloid plaques, which can appear years before the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease begin. The average time a person spent in bed during the study was about eight hours, but the average sleep time was 6.5 hours due to short awakenings in the night.

 

The study found that people who woke up more than five times per hour were more likely to have amyloid plaque build-up compared to people who didn't wake up as much. The study also found those people who slept "less efficiently" were more likely to have the markers of early stage Alzheimer's disease than those who slept more efficiently. In other words, those who spent less than 85 percent of their time in bed actually sleeping were more likely to have the markers than those who spent more than 85 percent of their time in bed actually sleeping.

 

"The association between disrupted sleep and amyloid plaques is intriguing, but the information from this study can't determine a cause-effect relationship or the direction of this relationship. We need longer-term studies, following individuals' sleep over years, to determine whether disrupted sleep leads to amyloid plaques, or whether brain changes in early Alzheimer's disease lead to changes in sleep," Ju said.

 

"Our study lays the groundwork for investigating whether manipulating sleep is a possible strategy in the prevention or slowing of Alzheimer disease."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120214171036.htm

Singing after stroke? Why rhythm and formulaic phrases may be more important than melody

September 23, 2011

Science Daily/Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

 

After a left-sided stroke, many individuals suffer from serious speech disorders but are often able to sing complete texts relatively fluently. Researchers have now demonstrated that it is not singing itself that is the key. Instead, rhythm may be crucial.

 

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, have now demonstrated that it is not singing itself that is the key. Instead, rhythm may be crucial. Moreover, highly familiar song lyrics and formulaic phrases were found to have a strong impact on articulation -- regardless of whether they were sung or spoken. The results may lead the way to new rehabilitative therapies for speech disorders.

 

When a stroke damages speech areas in the brain's left hemisphere, sufferers often have severe difficulties speaking -- a condition known as non-fluent aphasia. Sometimes the inability to speak spontaneously is permanent. However, there are frequent cases of aphasics who are able to sing song lyrics and formulaic phrases relatively fluently. Until now, this astonishing observation has been explained by the fact that the right brain hemisphere, which supports important functions of singing, remains intact. Singing was thought to stimulate areas in the right hemisphere, which would then assume the function for damaged left speech areas. A treatment method known as Melodic Intonation Therapy is based on this idea.

 

Recent research has shown that changes indeed occur in the right brain hemisphere of patients after singing formulaic phrases like 'How are you?' over a period of months. "But this alone is not sufficient evidence that singing is an effective treatment for aphasics," says Benjamin Stahl, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig. "The formulaic phrases could just as easily be the cause, as similar areas of the right brain hemisphere are activated when such texts are produced." Moreover, one should not jump to conclusions, Stahl says: "Changes in the right brain hemisphere are not necessarily the cause of improvement in a patient's articulation."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110922093728.htm

 

Zinc regulates communication between brain cells

September 21, 2011

Science Daily/Duke University Medical Center

Zinc has been found to play a critical role in regulating communication between cells in the brain, possibly governing the formation of memories and controlling the occurrence of epileptic seizures.

 

A collaborative project between Duke University Medical Center researchers and chemists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been able to watch zinc in action as it regulates communication between neurons in the hippocampus, where learning and memory processes occur -- and where disrupted communication may contribute to epilepsy.

 

"We discovered that zinc is essential to control the efficiency of communication between two critical populations of nerve cells in the hippocampus," said James McNamara, M.D., senior author and chair of the Department of Neurobiology at Duke. "This addresses a longstanding controversy in the field."

 

"Carefully controlling zinc's regulation of communication between these nerve cells is critical to both formation of memories and perhaps to occurrence of epileptic seizures," McNamara said.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110921132334.htm

Aerobic exercise may reduce the risk of dementia

September 8, 2011

Science Daily/Mayo Clinic

Any exercise that gets the heart pumping may reduce the risk of dementia and slow the condition's progression once it starts, a new study finds. Researchers examined the role of aerobic exercise in preserving cognitive abilities and concluded that it should not be overlooked as an important therapy against dementia.

 

"We culled through all the scientific literature we could find on the subject of exercise and cognition, including animal studies and observational studies, reviewing over 1,600 papers, with 130 bearing directly on this issue. We attempted to put together a balanced view of the subject," says J. Eric Ahlskog, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic.

 

"We concluded that you can make a very compelling argument for exercise as a disease-modifying strategy to prevent dementia and mild cognitive impairment, and for favorably modifying these processes once they have developed."

 

The researchers note that brain imaging studies have consistently revealed objective evidence of favorable effects of exercise on human brain integrity. Also, they note, animal research has shown that exercise generates trophic factors that improve brain functioning, plus exercise facilitates brain connections (neuroplasticity).

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110907163919.htm

 

Older adults with too much salt in diet and too little exercise at greater risk of cognitive decline

August 23, 2011

Science Daily/Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care

Older adults who lead sedentary lifestyles and consume a lot of sodium in their diet may be putting themselves at risk for more than just heart disease. A new study has found evidence that high-salt diets coupled with low physical activity can be detrimental to cognitive health in older adults.

 

"The results of our study showed that a diet high in sodium, combined with little exercise, was especially detrimental to the cognitive performance of older adults," said Dr. Fiocco. "But the good news is that sedentary older adults showed no cognitive decline over the three years that we followed them if they had low sodium intake."

 

"These data are especially relevant as we know that munching on high-salt processed snacks when engaged in sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing in front of the computer, is a frequent pastime for many adults," said Dr. Carol Greenwood, a senior author on the study and internationally-renowned scientist in the field of nutrition and cognitive function in late life.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110822111737.htm

Fish oil's impact on cognition and brain structure

August 17, 2011

Science Daily/Lifespan

Researchers have found positive associations between fish oil supplements and cognitive functioning as well as differences in brain structure between users and non-users of fish oil supplements. The findings suggest possible benefits of fish oil supplements on brain health and aging.

 

Daiello says, "In the imaging analyses for the entire study population, we found a significant positive association between fish oil supplement use and average brain volumes in two critical areas utilized in memory and thinking (cerebral cortex and hippocampus), as well as smaller brain ventricular volumes compared to non-users at any given time in the study. In other words, fish oil use was associated with less brain shrinkage in patients taking these supplements during the ADNI study compared to those who didn't report using them."

 

Daiello continues, "These observations should motivate further study of the possible effects of long-term fish oil supplementation on important markers of cognitive decline and the potential influence of genetics on these outcomes."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110817120220.htm

Moderate drinking may protect against Alzheimer's and cognitive impairment

August 19, 2011

Science Daily/Loyola University Health System

Moderate social drinking may significantly reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment, suggests a new analysis of 143 studies.

 

Wine was more beneficial than beer or spirits. But this finding was based on a relatively small number of studies, because most papers did not distinguish among different types of alcohol.

 

Heavy drinking (more than 3 to 5 drinks per day) was associated with a higher risk of cognitive impairment and dementia, but this finding was not statistically significant. "We don't recommend that nondrinkers start drinking," Neafsey said. "But moderate drinking -- if it is truly moderate -- can be beneficial." Moderate drinking is defined as a maximum of two drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.

 

The researchers note that there are other things besides moderate drinking that can reduce the risk of dementia, including exercise, education and a Mediterranean diet high in fruits, vegetables, cereals, beans, nuts and seeds. Even gardening has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110816112134.htm

Exercise may help prevent brain damage caused by Alzheimer's disease

August 15, 2011

Science Daily/Elsevier

Regular exercise could help prevent brain damage associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, according to new research.

 

"Exercise allows the brain to rapidly produce chemicals that prevent damaging inflammation," said Professor Jean Harry, who led the study at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the United States. "This could help us develop a therapeutic approach for early intervention in preventing damage to the brain."

 

Previous research has already demonstrated that exercise after brain injury can help the repair mechanisms. This new study shows that exercise before the onset of damage modifies the brain environment in such a way that the neurons are protected from severe insults.

 

The study used an experimental model of brain damage, in which mice are exposed to a chemical that destroys the hippocampus, an area of the brain which controls learning and memory. Mice that were exercised regularly prior to exposure produced an immune messenger called interleukin-6 in the brain, which dampens the harmful inflammatory response to this damage, and prevents the loss of function that is usually observed.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110815095727.htm

 

Interrupted sleep impairs memory in mice

July 27, 2011

Science Daily/Stanford University Medical Center

With the novel use of a technique that uses light to control brain cells, researchers have shown that fragmented sleep causes memory impairment in mice.

 

Until recently scientists have been unable to tease out the effects on the brain of different yet intertwined features of sleep. But these investigators were able to overcome that problem and come to their findings by using the novel method, known as optogenetics, to manipulate brain cells to affect just one aspect of sleep.

 

The study shows that "regardless of the total amount of sleep, a minimal unit of uninterrupted sleep is crucial for memory consolidation," the authors write in the study that will be published online July 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

While the study does not reach any conclusions about the amount of sleep needed to avoid memory impairment in humans, it does suggest that memory difficulties in people with apnea and other sleep disorders are likely connected to the compromised continuity of sleep caused by such conditions.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110725152844.htm

Over half of Alzheimer's cases may be preventable

July 19, 2011

Science Daily/University of California - San Francisco

Over half of all Alzheimer's disease cases could potentially be prevented through lifestyle changes and treatment or prevention of chronic medical conditions, according to a new study.

 

Analyzing data from studies around the world involving hundreds of thousands of participants, Barnes concluded that worldwide, the biggest modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer's disease are, in descending order of magnitude, low education, smoking, physical inactivity, depression, mid-life hypertension, diabetes and mid-life obesity.

 

In the United States, Barnes found that the biggest modifiable risk factors are physical inactivity, depression, smoking, mid-life hypertension, mid-life obesity, low education and diabetes.

 

Together, these risk factors are associated with up to 51 percent of Alzheimer's cases worldwide (17.2 million cases) and up to 54 percent of Alzheimer's cases in the United States (2.9 million cases), according to Barnes.

 

"What's exciting is that this suggests that some very simple lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity and quitting smoking, could have a tremendous impact on preventing Alzheimer's and other dementias in the United States and worldwide," said Barnes, who is also an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110719072809.htm

Air pollution linked to learning and memory problems, depression

July 6, 2011

Science Daily/Ohio State University

Long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to physical changes in the brain, as well as learning and memory problems and even depression, new research in mice suggests. While other studies have shown the damaging effects of polluted air on the heart and lungs, this is one of the first long-term studies to show the negative impact on the brain.

 

While other studies have shown the damaging effects of polluted air on the heart and lungs, this is one of the first long-term studies to show the negative impact on the brain, said Laura Fonken, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University.

 

"The results suggest prolonged exposure to polluted air can have visible, negative effects on the brain, which can lead to a variety of health problems," Fonken said. "This could have important and troubling implications for people who live and work in polluted urban areas around the world."

 

In other studies, several of the co-authors of this study from the Davis research center found that chronic exposure to polluted air leads to widespread inflammation in the body, which is linked to a variety of health problems in humans, including depression. This new study found evidence that this low-grade inflammation is evident in the hippocampus.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110705071735.htm

 

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