In our modern age where smartphones and apps are ubiquitous, so-called brain training games are all the rage. But people of a certain age will be much more familiar with the good old-fashioned crossword. Which is better for your brain when it comes to slowing cognitive decline? New research has provided some insights. According to the study, led by Davangere Devanand, MD, a professor and director of geriatric psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, the humble crossword puzzle may actually be better for aging brains than new-fangled video games. “This is the first study to document both short-term and longer-term benefits for home-based crossword puzzles training compared to another intervention,” said Devanand. For the study, the researchers followed 107 adults aged 55 and over with mild cognitive impairment for 78 weeks. The participants were randomly given either crossword puzzles or brain-training games, and asked to do four 30-minute sessions weekly over three months. The participants were also asked to do a number of booster sessions up until the end of the study period. The researchers found that the people in the crossword group showed a small improvement in tests of memory and other mental skills. The results of the study are published in the New England Journal of Medicine. *Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay
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
Kids who are physically active stand a greater chance of remaining mentally sharp for decades, new research suggests. The finding adds to the weight of evidence in favour of kids being physically active, such as the associated bone and muscle development benefits and reduced risk of diabetes and heart attack. The study by researchers in Australia followed 1,200 people for 30 years. It uncovered a link between childhood fitness and mental performance in middle age. Commencing in 1985, the study assessed the heart and lung fitness, power, and endurance, and measured for waist-to-hip ratio of children between the ages of 7 and 15 at the time. More than 30 years later, those with the highest fitness scores and lower waist-to-hip ratios as kids tended to score better in tests of their thinking skills. Interestingly, while physical exercise was associated with higher scores in things like processing speed and attention, it had no impact on memory. Michele Callisaya, PhD, a study co-author and associate professor from the National Centre for Healthy Ageing at Peninsula Health and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said: “This might be because the cognitive functions of processing speed and attention start to decline in midlife. Memory generally starts to decline later.” The results of the study are published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. *Image by Tri Le from Pixabay
A new study has shed more light on the potential health benefits of cranberries, specifically how they might help fight cognitive decline because of a particular group of plant compounds they contain known as flavanoids. In previous studies, flavanoids, which are found in vegetables, fruit, red wine, tea, and coffee, have been associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and lower dementia risk. Cranberries are actually rich in two types of flavonoids: anthocyanin and proanthocyanidins. Dr. David Vauzour, senior research fellow in molecular nutrition at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, wanted to investigate how cranberries impact the brain. To address the knowledge gap, Dr. Vauzour led a new study, the results of which are published in Frontiers in Nutrition. Interestingly, the stufy revealed a link between consuming the equivalent of a cup of cranberries a day and improved memory function. For the study, 60 pre-screened participants were separated into two groups and asked to undergo pre-intervention baseline tests to assess their cognitive levels. Participants were then asked to either take a sachet of freeze-dried cranberry powder or a placebo for a period of 12 weeks. Follow-up testing revealed that the group taking the cranberry powder not only demonstrated significant improvements in visual episodic memory performance, but also had increased flow in three areas of their brains. Dr. Vauzour says he would now like to see this study replicated with a larger sample size. *Image by Kristine Lejniece from Pixabay
Good news for pet lovers as a new study shows that having a long-term furry companion may delay memory loss and other kinds of cognitive decline. According to the preliminary study by researchers at the University of Michigan, pet ownership was especially beneficial for working verbal memory, such as memorization of word lists. The new data is expected to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 74th Annual Meeting in Seattle in April. In a press release, Dr. Tiffany Braley of the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who authored the study, said: “Prior studies have suggested that the human-animal bond may have health benefits like decreasing blood pressure and stress.” However, she added, “our results suggest pet ownership may also be protective against cognitive decline.” Owning a pet for five or more years was linked to delayed ageing in the brain of adults around 65 years old. While owing a dog was found to be most beneficial, followed by owning a cat, people who cared for rabbits, hamsters, birds, fish and reptiles can also reap benefits. The bottom line is the Michigan researchers found that cognitive scores decreased at a slower rate in pet owners than non-pet owners over the six-year period. *Image by Sven Lachmann from Pixabay
Initially, when the COVID-19 outbreak first happened, many thought the SARS-CoV-2 virus caused mainly respiratory problems. And while that assumption still holds true, new research shows that the disease can actually impact multiple organs in a person's body. The new study, the results of which appear in the BMJ, sought to discover whether adults develop other health conditions after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. For the research, a team led by Dr. Ken Cohen, executive director of translational research at Optum Labs, studied the health insurance records of 133,366 adults aged 65+ in the United States who had received a COVID-19 diagnosis before April 1, 2020. The researchers compared the records to individuals who did not have COVID-19 in 2019 or 2020 and individuals who had a lower respiratory tract infection but not COVID-19. The team then identified new conditions occurring 3 weeks or more after each participant’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Of those individuals who had a SARS-CoV-2 infection in 2020, 32% sought medical attention for a new or persistent condition. This was 11% higher than the comparison group from 2020. Among the new or persistent conditions were respiratory failure, fatigue, high blood pressure, memory issues, kidney injury, mental health-related diagnoses, hypercoagulability and cardiac rhythm disorders. Dr. Alicia Arbaje, director of Transitional Care Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine and a clinician at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, said: “I think this work is significant. First, because it focuses on older adults, and this is the population that’s most likely to demonstrate long-term effects from this infection, and so I think it’s important and timely given the phase of the pandemic that we’re in.” [Related reading: Long Covid may hinder women's response, recovery from exercise] *Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay
A new long-term study has found that people who drink higher amounts of coffee may be less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. As part of the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study of ageing, the study investigated whether coffee intake affected the rate of cognitive decline of more than 200 Australians over a decade. According to the research led by Edith Cowan University scientists, coffee intake may not only be a protective factor against Alzheimer's disease, but increased consumption of coffee could potentially reduce cognitive decline. Lead investigator Dr Samantha Gardener said the results showed an association between coffee and several important Alzheimer's disease-related markers. "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. Higher coffee intake gave positive results in relation to certain domains of cognitive function, specifically executive function which includes planning, self-control and attention. Drinking more coffee also seemed to be linked to slowing the accumulation of the amyloid protein in the brain, a key factor in the development of Alzheimer's disease. Importantly, the researchers were not able to differentiate between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption, nor determine differences based on coffee preparation method or additions such as milk or sugar. Image by Elias Shariff Falla Mardini from Pixabay
The Mediterranean diet, which features plenty of vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains, has long been lauded for its heart health benefits. But now a new study shows that it could also improve brain function in elderly people, even when only eaten for a year. According to the research published in the BMJ, following a Mediterranean diet for just 12 months can inhibit production of inflammatory chemicals in elderly individuals that can lead to loss of cognitive function, as well as prevent the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and atherosclerosis. For the study, 612 elderly people from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom has their gut microbiome analysed. Then, 323 of them were put on a special diet, based on Mediterranean principles, for one year, while the rest were asked to eat as they normally would. After 12 months, all of the study participants had their gut microbiome re-analysed. Those who had followed the Mediterranean diet saw beneficial changes to the microbiome in their digestive system. The rate at which bacterial diversity was lost slowed and the production of potentially harmful inflammatory markers was reduced. Furthermore, there was also a growth of beneficial bacteria linked to improved memory and brain function. So-called “keystone” species, critical for a stable “gut ecosystem”, were also boosted, helping to slow signs of frailty, such as walking speed and hand grip strength. “Our findings support the feasibility of changing the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota which in turn has the potential to promote healthier aging,” the study authors said.
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2020, there will be around 13,800 new cases of invasive cervical cancer diagnosed and about 4,290 women will die from the disease. Nevertheless, cervical cancer has a lot of optimism surrounding t, with specialists and the World Health Organization (WHO) arguing that the disease could be eradicated completely in the next 100 years. The WHO says that by applying the right preventative measures, cervical cancer mortality rates could be lowered significantly. Now, two separate studies published in The Lancet contend that cervical cancer could become a distant memory by 2120. Both studies outline measures that should be taken by different countries to prevent cervical cancer. First, girls from low- and middle-income backgrounds should be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) – the top risk factor for cervical cancer. This would, the WHO says, avert an estimated 61 million cases of cervical cancer up to 2120. Furthermore, if individuals get screened for this type of cancer twice in their lifetime, its incidence can be reduced by 96.7%, and avert 2.1 million new cases. However, Prof. Marc Brissonco-lead of both studies from Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine in Québec, Canada, warns that cervical cancer eradication can only be achieved with “considerable international financial and political commitment, in order to scale up prevention and treatment.”
So-called ‘Mediterranean diets’ have long been associated with various health benefits. And now new research suggests extra virgin olive oil – a common component of many Mediterranean diets – may protect against certain dementias. The research in mice revealed that a diet rich in extra virgin olive oil helps prevent a toxic accumulation of the protein tau, which is a hallmark of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. For the research, Dr. Domenico Praticò, a professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, led a team to study the neurological benefits of extra virgin olive oil. During the study, the team looked at the olive oil's effect on "tauopathies." - age-related neurodegenerative disorders characterized by the deposition of abnormal tau protein in the brain – which can lead to the onset of various forms of dementia. They found that olive oil consumption led to 60% less tau and better cognitive recognition memory performance. “These results strengthen the [healthful] benefits of [extra virgin olive oil] and further support the therapeutic potential of this natural product not only for [Alzheimer's disease] but also for primary tauopathies,” said Dr. Praticò. The team’s findings are published in the journal Aging Cell.
In 1906, a German doctor called Alois Alzheimer performed an autopsy on a 55-year-old lady who had profound memory loss. What he discovered was that she had an abnormally shrunken brain, as well as abnormalities in and around her nerve cells. It was the first time that such brain abnormalities had been witnessed and led to the coining of the term “Alzheimer’s disease.” At the time of Alzheimer’s discovery, dementia was rare and something that wasn’t subsequently studied for decades. Fast-forward to today and someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease every three seconds, making it the number one cause of dementia. In some wealthier nations today, Alzheimer’s is one of the biggest killers – mainly due to the fact that it’s completely untreatable. In England and Wales, one in eight death certificates nowadays lists dementia as the cause of death, while it is estimated that 50 million people globally are living with the condition. However, as populations in developing countries age, the number of people living with dementia globally is set to soar to 130 million by 2050. But why is dementia more common today? Simply because we are all living longer and age is the biggest risk factor for dementia. Speaking to the BBC recently, Hilary Evans, chief executive of the charity Alzheimer's Research UK, said: “Dementia certainly is the biggest health challenge of our time. It's the one that will continue to rise in terms of prevalence, unless we can do something to stop or cure this disease."
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.
Genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors are all thought to play a role in causing Alzheimer’s disease. And it’s now looking increasingly likely that we can add certain strains of the herpes virus to that list too. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health, the results of which were recently published in the journal Neuron, found that people with Alzheimer’s disease had higher levels of herpes strains 6A and 7 – two common forms of the virus, but not the ones responsible for genital herpes or cold sores. Alzheimer’s – also commonly referred to as dementia – causes people to lose their memory and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States today. The authors of the study hope their research could one day lead to exciting new Alzheimer’s treatments and help better determine just who is at risk of developing the disease. "The hypothesis that viruses play a part in brain disease is not new, but this is the first study to provide strong evidence based on unbiased approaches and large data sets that lends support to this line of inquiry," National Institute of Aging Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D., said in a statement. The findings of the study reignite an old theory that suggests viruses could impact brain functions long term.
Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by progressive memory loss and the deterioration of other cognitive functions. It is thought to affect around 5.4 million adults worldwide and, at present, there is no cure. As a result, treatment focuses on managing the symptoms and helping sufferers lead better lives. However, a new brain implant could help people affected by Alzheimer's to live independently for longer. A recent clinical trial at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre in Columbus investigated how deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy can help Alzheimer's patients. It involves implanting very thin electrical wires into the brain's frontal lobes and sending electrical signals, which are regulated by a device in the person’s chest, to stimulate the relevant brain networks. Following the treatment, one long-term dementia patient, LaVonne, 85, can cook meals, dress herself and organise outings. Speaking about the study, Dr Douglas Scharre, from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre, said: "By stimulating this region of the brain, the Alzheimer's subjects' cognitive and daily functional abilities as a whole declined more slowly than Alzheimer's patients' in a matched comparison group not being treated with [deep brain stimulation]." Further research will now be conducted to see whether the DBS therapy can be used in less invasive, non-surgical ways.
A pioneering breakthrough in the treatment of Huntington’s disease has seen the defect that causes it corrected for the first time. According to the research team from University College London, there is a real possibility that the deadly neurodegenerative disease could be stopped going forward. The team of scientists injected an experimental drug into spinal fluid which reduced the levels of toxic proteins in the brain. Experts are hailing the groundbreaking procedure as the potentially the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases for 50 years. Huntington’s disease is a particularly devastating illness that is passed down through families. Some sufferers have likened it to having Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and motor neurone disease all at the same time. A genetic error causes the protein huntingtin – which is vital for brain development – to instead kill brain cells. The unstoppable degradation of brain cells in Huntington's patients leaves them in permanent decline and affects their movement, behaviour, memory and ability to think clearly. Huntington’s blights families and generally hits people while they are in their prime – 30s and 40s. Patients tend to die around 10-20 years after symptoms first appear. The revolutionary drug therapy works by effectively silencing the effects of the mutant huntingtin gene and preventing the harmful protein from ever being built. Professor Sarah Tabrizi, the lead researcher and director of University College London’s Huntington’s Disease Centre, said: “For the first time a drug has lowered the level of the toxic disease-causing protein in the nervous system, and the drug was safe and well-tolerated. This is probably the most significant moment in the history of Huntington’s since the gene [was isolated].”
Today, approximately 5.2 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, and by 2050, that number is expected to have more than doubled to 13.8 million, unless new, more effective treatments are found. Now, after decades of research, it has been discovered that an existing drug commonly used to treat menstrual pain could prove crucial in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. Publishing their findings in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers revealed how mefenamic acid was found to reverse the effect's of Alzheimer's disease in mice by reducing brain inflammation. According to Dr. David Brough from the University of Manchester in the UK, who led the study, his team's findings provide enough evidence for trials in humans with the disease to begin sometime in the future. For the study, the researchers analysed the effects of both mefenamic acid and a placebo on a group of 20 mice that had been genetically-modified to develop Alzheimer's disease. The 10 mice that were given mefenamic acid displayed a complete reversal in memory loss, while the placebo group did not. Upon further investigation, the research team found that mefenamic acid targets a pro-inflammatory pathway which is known to damage brain cells, known as the NLRP3 inflammasome pathway. While mefenamic acid should not yet be used to treat Alzheimer's disease, the director of research and development at the U.K.'s Alzheimer's Society, Dr. Doug Brown, said that the study's findings were "promising".
A sudden change in a person’s sense of humour, especially when they become increasingly perceptive to dark or twisted humour, could be an early warning sign of dementia, according to a new study. The results of the study, which was conducted by researchers at University College London, were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and show that a person’s sense of humour can be a good indicator of their mental health. Friend and family of the study subjects were asked to rate their friend or relative’s reaction to different kinds of comedy. Slapstick comedy, such as Mr. Bean, satirical comedy, such as Yes Minister and absurdist comedy, such as Monty Python, were all used for the study, as well as “inappropriate humour”. Dr Camilla Clark, who headed up the team responsible for the research, recruited 48 patients who had previously been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. The team found that dementia patients had a preference for slapstick humour, when compared against 21 healthy people of similar age. Almost all of the patients’ friends and family said they had noticed a change in the patient’s humour over the nine years prior to them being diagnosed. Most notable were preferences for dark humour and inappropriate laughing at tragic events. “These were marked changes – completely inappropriate humour well beyond the realms of even distasteful humour. For example, one man laughed when his wife badly scalded herself,” said Dr Clark. Dr Simon Ridley, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said changes in behaviour should be investigated by an individual’s GP. “While memory loss is often the first thing that springs to mind when we hear the word dementia, this study highlights the importance of looking at the myriad different symptoms that impact on daily life and relationships", he said.
Older people benefit from playing online games that test their memory and reasoning skills, also known as ‘brain training’, according to a large-scale study. The six month experiment, which was conducted by researchers at King’s College London, involved almost 7,000 individuals aged 50 and over and was launched by the BBC’s Bang Goes The Theory. None of the volunteers who participated in the study had reported any memory or cognition problems and they were recruited from the general population as part of a collaboration between the BBC, the Medical Research Council and the Alzheimer’s Society. The researchers found that mental exercises, such as those undertaken during brain training, helped with everyday skills like cooking and shopping. A baseline was taken by testing the study subjects on a series of medically recognised cognitive tests. The group was then split into two, with one subgroup asked to play online brain training games whenever they wanted for up to 10 minutes at a time. The medically recognised cognitive tests were then redone at three and six months to see if the group which had been playing the online games displayed any detectable differences over the other group. After six months, the group that had been playing the brain games showed broader cognitive skills than those who hadn’t. Dr Doug Brown from the Alzheimer's Society said: "Online brain training is rapidly growing into a multi-million pound industry and studies like this are vital to help us understand what these games can and cannot do. “While this study wasn't long enough to test whether the brain training package can prevent cognitive decline or dementia, we're excited to see that it can have a positive impact on how well older people perform essential everyday tasks." Bigger, longer studies will now commence to dig deeper into this study’s findings.
Trans fat has long had a bad reputation for playing havoc with your cholesterol because it raises your LDL (the bad stuff) and lowers your HDL (the good stuff). But now a new study has revealed that it could also have a detrimental effect on your memory. The study found that young men who ate high levels of trans fats scored poorly on a simple memory test compared to their peers who consumed lower levels. More specifically, the young men with high daily trans fat intakes remembered 12 to 21 fewer words. Lead study author Dr. Beatrice Golomb, a professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, said: "It's a pretty sizeable relationship. This adds to a body of evidence that trans fats are not something that people should be sticking in their mouth." Coincidentally, Dr. Golomb’s study appeared the day after the US Food and Drug Administration announced that partially-hydrogenated oils – one of the primary sources of trans fats – would be phased out over a three-year period. "The purpose of food is to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly," said Golomb. "This actually does the opposite. It subverts cellular and organ function." It’s important to note, however, that the study did not find a direct link between trans fats and memory, but instead shows a potential association. Additional reading: The 22 Worst Foods for Trans Fat Photo credit: Live Trading News
THYROIDECTOMY What is a Thyroidectomy? The thyroid is an endocrine gland which produces hormones controlling different bodies’ functions. To some extent it can be compared to the body’s general thermostat: When over performing, it triggers pulse acceleration, bowel movement acceleration, weight loss, excitation and aggressiveness. When Under performing, it triggers pulse slowdown, constipation, weight increase, Memory troubles and dépression signs. The thyroid gland can suffer from minor disease or cancer. Up to 10% of people may suffer from a minor thyroid disease (goitre, nodule, hypo or hyperthyroidism) Cancer represents 10 to 12 % of thyroid’s tumour, which explains complete screening prior of deciding for a surgery. Prognostic is very good in more than 90% of cases. The surgery called “thyroidectomy” is performed under general anaesthesia. It consists in removing part or all of the thyroid gland. Incision is done in the neck’s fold to hide the scar as much as possible. If a cancer is suspected, an anatomo-pathologist doctor present during surgery will perform an immediate preliminary analysis of the removed nodule which will help the surgeon decide if a total gland removal is required, reducing the risk to have to perform another surgery later on. If it only is a toxic nodule (e.g. which over produces hormones), only half of thyroid removal will be necessary.