Smartphones and other electronic gadgets have been an ubiquitous part of many people's lives for years now. But while the myriad of apps that are available include many that can help us not forget important details or dates, there has always been some debate around how good these gadgets are for our own internal memories. Now, new research has shed a light on the subject. According to the study, published on August 1 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, external memory devices can actually improve memory for information that someone has never saved. For the study, led by University College London (UCL) researchers, 158 volunteers were asked to play one of three memory task games involving high and low value circles on a touchscreen digital tablet or computer. The researchers found that digital devices help people to store and remember very important information. This, in turn, frees up their own memory to recall additional, less important pieces of information. Participants who tended to use the digital devices to store the details of the high-value circles in the trial, demonstrated a memory improvement of 18%. Their memory for low-value circles was also improved by 27%, even in people who had never set any reminders for low-value circles. Senior author, Dr Sam Gilbert (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience) said: “The results show that external memory tools work. Far from causing ‘digital dementia’, using an external memory device can even improve our memory for information that we never saved. But we need to be careful that we back up the most important information. Otherwise, if a memory tool fails, we could be left with nothing but lower-importance information in our own memory.” *Image by Thorsten Frenzel from Pixabay
Eating ultra-processed foods could impair cognitive performance in older adults, new research suggests. According to the study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, older individuals who eat foods such as packaged snacks, breakfast cereals, choclates and pre-prepared pies, pizzas and pasta perform worse on standardized cognitive tests than their counterparts who do not consume such foods. The researchers from Australia that such food items contain little to no whole foods and typically include flavorings, colorings, emulsifiers, and other cosmetic additives. For the study, the researchers evaluated more than 2,700 participants who were 60 years old and above. The participants were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2011 to 2014. Each participant was asked to recall what they ate in a 24-hour period on two non-consecutive days. The participants then underwent standardized, validated cognitive tests, including one that assesses Alzheimer’s disease. “Research indicates that diets that follow a Mediterranean Diet style, recognized by the high proportion of foods with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, are associated with a reduced risk of age-associated cognitive decline and dementia,” said Barbara Cardoso, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a senior lecturer in nutrition, dietetics, and food at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. *Image by Hannah Chen from Pixabay
The New Year is here and for many that means attempting to stick to one or a bunch of resolutions. Eating more healthily, doing more exercise and quitting smoking will be at the top of the list for many people. If one of your goals for 2019 is eating more healthily, perhaps you should consider following a Mediterranean diet. While it varies depending on where you go, a Mediterranean diet, in a nutshell, is one that incorporates all of the healthy eating habits of people who live in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain - so more vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, grains, cereals, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. And less meat and dairy foods. As well as being linked with better health, including a healthier heart, a Mediterranean diet also promotes healthy brain aging, according to new research. A recent study involving 116 healthy adults aged 65–75 years, conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, found that participants who ate a Mediterranean diet performed better in memory, general intelligence, and executive function tests. “Our study suggests that diet and nutrition moderate the association between network efficiency and cognitive performance,” said Aron Barbey, a psychology professor at The University of Illinois.
Tablets, mobile phones and other handheld devices are extremely popular among children (and their parents). The former get visual stimulation, while the latter get some peace and quiet. But how does screen use affect a child’s cognitive ability? Well, according to a new study by researchers at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, less screen time results in better cognition. Specifically, children aged eight to 11 who used screens for fun for more than two hours every day performed more poorly in cognition tests than their counterparts who got less screen time. Moreover, the researchers found that less screen time, nine to 11 hours of sleep every night and at least one hour of physical activity led to even better results. Nevertheless, less than two hours screen time each day was the factor linked with the best performance results. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr Jeremy Walsh, from the CHEO Research Institute, said: “Based on our findings, paediatricians, parents, educators, and policymakers should promote limiting recreational screen time and prioritising healthy sleep routines throughout childhood and adolescence.” The study, which looked at data from 4,500 children aged 8-11 from 20 locations across the U.S., is published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.
As people grow older, their brains naturally lose a certain amount of white matter. But new brain scanning research by a team from Cambridge University has found that being overweight exacerbates that loss. Published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, the study revealed that the brains of overweight middle-aged adults appear 10 years older than those of their leaner peers. However, the greater shrinkage in the volume of white matter does not appear to affect cognitive performance. White matter is the part of the brain that transmits information, and is often referred to as "the subway of the brain" because it connects different brain regions together. Obesity has long been linked to a number of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer, but research is increasingly showing that it may also have a negative impact on the brain. Indeed, the Cambridge researchers said that the findings from their study show we need to better understand how extra weight affects the brain. The author of the study, Lisa Ronan, from the University of Cambridge, said: “This study raises the possibility that if you are overweight or obese you may be more susceptible to diseases [linked] to age-related decline such as dementia and Alzheimer’s."