Posted by WBHI on May 7, 2013 in Think Ahead
by Philip Moeller for U.S. News & World Report:
As life spans continue to lengthen, it’s becoming increasingly clear that our brains as well as our bodies are amazingly resilient and adaptive. Even 90-year-olds can build new muscle mass through physical exercise. So can their brains, although what’s being developed is not new muscle but new synapses. And while some of the exercise that produces these effects is physical, most of it is mental.
Last year, when U.S. News reported and wrote the e-book, “How to Live to 100,” expert after expert extolled the benefits of continued strenuous mental and physical exercise into and throughout old age. These are not new benefits. But what is new is the accumulating evidence for how dramatically these activities can promote healthy aging, help ward off physical and cognitive decline and illnesses, and add years to our lives.
Posted by WBHI on Nov 25, 2012 in Think Outside The Box
by Health Canal:
A simple word-training program has been found to restore key words in people with a type of dementia that attacks language and our memory for words.
This ability to relearn vocabulary indicates that even in brains affected by dementia, some recovery of function is possible.
The study, led by Ms Sharon Savage at NeuRA (Neuroscience Research Australia), utilised a simple computer training-program that paired images of household objects such as food, appliances, utensils, tools and clothing, with their names. “People with this type of dementia lose semantic memory, the memory system we use to store and remember words and their meanings,” says Ms Savage.
“Even the simplest words around the house can be difficult to recall. For example, a person with this type of dementia usually knows what a kettle does, but they may not know what to call it and may not recognize the word ‘kettle’ when they hear it,” she says. Ms Savage found that after just 3 weeks of training for 30–60 min each day, patients’ ability to recall the name of the items improved, even for patients with more advanced forms of the dementia.
by Randy Astalza for Business Insider:
By peering into students’ brains, a recent study, published in the journal NeuroImage, found that learning languages can help bulk up the brain.
The researchers, from Lund University, compared the brains of students from the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy, who become fluent in languages within 13 months, to science students at Umeå University, who also study hard.They took MRI scans before and after a three-month period of studying for these two groups of students.
The brains of the science students did not change or grow but the brains of the language students experienced growth in areas of their cerebral cortex, which is related to language, and in their hippocampus, which is involved in learning new things.
This brain bulk could be a good thing when it comes to staying sharp later in life.
Posted by WBHI on Aug 2, 2012 in Think About It
by Barbara Bronson Gray for U.S. News:
It’s been said that music soothes the savage beast, but if you’re the one playing the instrument it might benefit your brain.
A growing body of evidence suggests that learning to play an instrument and continuing to practice and play it may offer mental benefits throughout life. Hearing has also been shown to be positively affected by making music.
The latest study, published in the July issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that musical instrument training may reduce the effects of mental decline associated with aging. The research found that older adults who learned music in childhood and continued to play an instrument for at least 10 years outperformed others in tests of memory and cognitive ability.
It also revealed that sustaining musical activity during advanced age may enhance thinking ability, neutralizing any negative impact of age and even lack of education. It’s unclear, however, whether starting an instrument in adulthood provides any mental advantages.
Posted by WBHI on Jul 1, 2012 in Helpful Thinking
by Jill Rosner for Carroll County Times:
Diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease are increasing at an alarming rate, which in turn reflects an increase in the necessity of caregivers. It is a fact that either you or someone you know is likely providing the primary caregiving for a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
This debilitating, and ultimately deadly disease, impacts the person affected, but also impacts family members, friends and caregivers. If you are one of the millions of people who have cared for a person affected with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, you have experienced first-hand the frustrations and challenges.
Family members and caregivers are often referred to as “the other victims.”
by Amanda L. Chan for Huffington Post:
On Tuesday, May 15, the Obama administration set in stone the National Alzheimer’s Plan, aiming to find methods of prevention and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.
Part of the plan includes $8 million in funding for an insulin nasal spray study — a promising Alzheimer’s therapy — and $16 million in funding for research into amyloid plaque treatments, the Associated Press reported. Amyloid plaques are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, and are linked with the disease.
Health officials and leaders noted that timing is everything for Alzheimer’s. Researchers need “to figure out exactly where is the best window of opportunity” for battling Alzheimer’s, National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins said at Monday’s Alzheimer’s Research Summit, according to an Associated Press report.
The upcoming research is exciting, but there are also some things we already know about the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Below, see what science has shown — or at least suggested — to work at warding off the memory-robbing condition.
Daily Chores And Exercise
A recent study in the journal Neurology showed that simple activities like cooking, cleaning and washing the dishes – as well as good, old-fashioned exercise — is associated with a decreased Alzheimer’s disease risk, even among people who are age 80 and older.
Posted by WBHI on May 5, 2012 in Helpful Thinking
by Denise Grady for The New York Times
He threw away tax documents, got a ticket for trying to pass an ambulance and bought stock in companies that were obviously in trouble. Once a good cook, he burned every pot in the house. He became withdrawn and silent, and no longer spoke to his wife over dinner. That same failure to communicate got him fired from his job at a consulting firm.
By 2006, Michael French — a smart, good-natured, hardworking man — had become someone his wife, Ruth, felt she hardly knew. Infuriated, she considered divorce.
But in 2007, she found out what was wrong. “I cried,” Mrs. French said. “I can’t tell you how much I cried, and how much I apologized to him for every perceived wrong or misunderstanding.”
Mr. French, now 71, has frontotemporal dementia — a little-known, poorly understood and frequently misdiagnosed group of brain diseases that eat away at personality and language. Although it was first recognized more than 100 years ago, there is still no cure or treatment, and patients survive an average of only eight years after the diagnosis.
But recently, researchers have been making important discoveries about the biochemical and genetic defects that cause some forms of the disease. And for the first time, they have identified drugs that may be able to treat one of those defects, the buildup of abnormal proteins in the brain. Tests in people, the first ever such drug trials in this disease, could begin as soon as early next year at the University of California, San Francisco.
Posted by WBHI on Mar 29, 2012 in Great Minds Think Alike
by Sharon Kirkey for The Gazette
Bilingualism helps protect the aging brain and may even postpone signs of dementia, a new review of recent studies indicates.
The paper by Canadian researchers, published Thursday, suggests that bilingual people have higher cognitive reserves as they get older. Higher cognitive reserve is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and other memory-destroying dementias.
More than half the world’s population is bilingual, the researchers write in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences. In the United States and Canada, about 20 per cent of the population speaks a language other than English at home.
Lead author and psychologist Ellen Bialystok, of Toronto’s York University, had already begun accumulating evidence that the bilingual advantages seen in children could also be found in healthy adults. In a 2004 study, her team reported that bilingual adults, young and old, performed better than monolinguals on “conflict tasks” — situations where people need to ignore distracting stimuli to perform properly. (Think of driving on a busy highway).
In hundreds of interviews with reporters and science writers, Bialystok said, she kept being asked one question: What about dementia?
Posted by WBHI on Mar 17, 2012 in Come To Think Of It
by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee for The New York Times
Speaking two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people.
Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.
This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.
They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.
Posted by WBHI on Mar 11, 2012 in Think About It, Think Ahead
by Timi Gustafson R.D. for Seattle PI
Exercising the brain as much as exercising the body to keep both fit and healthy has become the new mantra for the aging baby boomer generation. Scientists seem to agree. Studies show that people who were cognitively active throughout their lives are less likely to experience mental decline as they grow older.
Age-related dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease is the most feared health condition among older Americans today, second only to cancer. It is also one of the most significant health threats of the 21st century, according to a report by the Alzheimer’s Association and the Harvard School of Public Health that was first published at an international conference on the subject in Paris, France, last year.