Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2018

Is Too Little Sleep As Bad For Your Brain as Crack?

Sleep is essential to brain health. Dr. Nora Volkow just gave a speech titled Probing the Sleep-Deprived Human Brain. Dr. Volkow is the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse-part of the National Institute for Health She gave that speech at Radcliffe College which was reported in the Harvard Gazette.Dr. Volkow is an expert on the effects of addictive drugs on the brain, particularly the effects that cocaine has on the brain. She has found that cocaine disrupts dopamine transmission. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an essential role in brain function. In part, it is released by neurons to signal other neurons.Specifically, she found that that using cocaine resulted in brain cells releasing dopamine but being unable to receive it. She has found that lack of sleep can have the same effect on dopamine transmission. Here is a quote from her: “Yet lack of sleep itself produces some of the same effects that drugs do: It disrupts memory, inhibits alertness and can contrib…
The approach that Kan Ding, MD, Takashi Tarumi, PhD, and team used to evaluate brain health in relation to breathing is unique and interesting. They used oxygen uptake as a measure of fitness. You’ve likely seen a tv commercial or video with a professional athlete or perhaps an Olympic hopeful running or biking with a mask and tube strapped to their face. That equipment is measuring “VO2Max” or the use of oxygen by someone exercising. Distance runners, cross country skiers and the like must consume and burn oxygen highly efficiently if they want to be competitive The University of Texas Southwest Medical Center recently opened its new Brain Institute. That’s where Doctors Ding, Tarumi and associates work. They recruited 91 participants diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. Generally, that means they were able to care for themselves but were noticing some memory difficulty. Participants in the study had VO2Max measured, had brain image scans, and various tests of cognition performe…

Lusting for That Standing Desk? Researchers Say Think Twice

Standing desks are the rage. Star coders demand a standing desk, along with a truckload of stock options, to change jobs. TV commercials show these lean, obviously high-achiever types using their stand-up desks. Can’t wait to get one? Think twice. A team at the University of Toronto School of Public Health did a study. Here’s the punch line: Prolonged standing at work doubles heart attack risk. Peter M. Smith, MD, PhD led the study of over 7,000 individuals. The research goal was to get real-world measurement of standing versus sitting in a business setting. They divided the individuals into four groups: mostly standing, mostly sitting, stand and walk, mix of positions like crouching and kneeling. Those who stood the most head a greater risk of heart disease. Importantly, most of the tests were done in a factory setting where workers had less opportunity to move, stretch or sit. Overall conclusion – move around some. If your job allows, sit when you get tired of standing. Link to a r…

Tiger Mom Had This Right For Sure

Parents and Grandparents- Read This! The University of Southern California hosts a Brain and Creativity Institute. It just reported the results of a five-year study on the effect of learning to play a musical instrument on brain development of children. If you’ve reading our newsletters for a while, you won’t be surprised with the results. The young musicians, who practiced an average of seven hours per week, had accelerated brain development in the areas of the brain associated with speech, reading skills, sound perception and more. Remember the PR around Amy Chua’s book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother that popularized the term “Tiger Mom”? Sounds (get it, sounds?) like she got the music education part right. Link to a research summary here. We’ve previously noted that learning to play a musical instrument at any age is a great brain builder and is one of the steps we can take to prevent dementia.
We Promised In our last newsletter, we said we’ll revisit alcohol and brain health a…
SuperAgers Live Longer & Retain Better Memory Function The Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern’s University Feinberg School of Medicine has been tracking a group of older adults. They’ve found some of the group have remarkably better memory skills than others. To the extent that their memory and recall is as good or better than most people 20 or more years younger. Northwestern has labeled those individuals “SuperAgers” and has been busy trying to identify characteristics that might explain how they’ve maintained their cognition. Emily Rogalski, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences has led some of these research efforts. Here’s some of the scientific findings: ·SuperAgers had greater thickness of the anterior cingulate gyrus. Evolutionary theory postulates that the anterior cingulate was one of the later evolutionary developments. The anterior cingulate is involved in decision-making, ethics, emotion, and perhaps self-contro…

This Two-Week Intervention Might Just Save Your Life

Researchers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences reduced heart failure risk in two weeks. One of the great medical research vehicles is the Framingham Heart Study. Originally created in 1948 to study cardiovascular disease, researchers from Boston University assembled a group of volunteers who were monitored in detail and examined every two years. Researchers have used data from the Framingham Heart Study to create a cardiovascular risk evaluation tool called the Framingham Risk Score (FRS). The FRS is used to assess someone’s chance of developing cardiovascular disease in the next ten years. Risk groups are: low-less than a 10 percent risk; intermediate- 10-20 percent risk; and high-over 20%.
Recently, a research team at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi analyzed the effectiveness of a yoga and meditation-based lifestyle to determine if it would result in a lower FRS. Yadav Rashni, PhD and the research team recruited 386 healthy participants for the s…

Hey- Can You Turn Those Lights Up Brighter?

We should know by now that factors that aid the health of that 3 lb. organ in our skull are many and varied. Still, sometimes we are surprised at the findings.
Light Level is a Big Deal for Brain Performance You’ve probably heard, and perhaps used the term “cabin fever”. It usually refers to the need to get outside after a prolonged cold spell. That cold spell could also be accompanied by cloudy, overcast days. Lily Yan, MD, PhD and a team of researchers from Michigan State performed some experiments to evaluate the impact of lower light levels on the brain. Using test animals, they found that “When the animals were housed in dim light during the day, mimicking the cloudy days or typical indoor lighting, the animals had a ~30% reduction in the dendritic spines, which make the connection between the brain cells, within the hippocampus, a brain region critical for learning and memory.” (Emphasis mine). Further comments from Dr. Yan: “Environmental lighting conditions can impact brain fu…

Don't forget to Take Out the Garbage

Alcohol and Brain Health-Part I A few weeks ago, we warned of the risks of alcohol consumption, based on a study by the Department of Psychology at Oxford University. Five hundred fifty people were tracked over thirty years, with detailed records of their health maintained.Anya Topiwala, PhD and Charlotte L. Allen, PhD led the project. From the study: “…even those drinking moderately had three times the odds of right sided hippocampal atrophy” Also from that study: “Light-to-moderate drinking has been associated with a lower risk of dementia and a reduced incidence of myocardial infarction and stoke. Brain imaging studies, however, have thus far failed to provide a convincing neural correlate that could underpin any protective benefit.” Link to study here. Further, the definition they used to determine a moderate amount were different than the old U.S. four once glass of wine, 1.5-ounce cocktail or ten-ounce beer. In all cases they were smaller. A half-pint of beer as an example, whic…

Easy Steps to a Bigger Brain in 2018

Use These Two New Research Findings to Build Your Bigger Better Brain in 2018 Best, the benefits come from easy- to- do things.

Walking Has Newly-Discovered Brain Benefits If you’ve been following our posts, you certainly know that exercise is your top brain-building activity for 2018. Here’s the latest, and rather interesting, research. A team of researchers from schools of medicine at New Mexico University, Colorado University and the University of Copenhagen studied healthy young adults performing different activities.  They found that walking and running have a unique effect: they create pressure waves beginning in the feet caused by landing on the ground. Those pressure waves propel blood into the brain. That contrasts to other exercises like cycling where there isn’t either the lighter foot pressure of walking or the heavier foot pressure of running. Link to the research here. That 10,000 steps thing seems to have some scientific support (oh and remember that we reported research…

Just When You Thought It Was Safe

Recently there have been medical research reports indicating that all the warnings about consuming too much salt were exaggerated. Perhaps you remember when we were told that consuming eggs would clog our arteries with cholesterol, and anyone eating butter had a death wish. Now, eggs are an ideal source of lean protein and butter not only isn’t bad, it is superior to margarine. In that vein, having seen the newer reports, I was largely ignoring salt warnings (particularly since I can eat my weight in restaurant chips and salsa). Then this report popped-up.


Quoting from the study: “…excess dietary salt suppresses resting cerebral blood flow and endothelial function, leading to cognitive decline.”  Cognitive decline, of course, isn’t good. It causes little brains.
Research Details Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College fed mice a high salt diet. Admittedly, it was a very high salt diet. The result was reduced blood flow to the hippocampus and cortex. Our old friend the hippocamp…
We’ve found some simply delicious research reports. Chocolate Lovers- Take Heart! Denmark has created a large health study, with over 55,000 participants who have been tracked for over 13 years. Originally designed to identify cancer risk factors, it captured sufficiently rich and detailed information that it can be used to assess heart health benefits as well. Research teams from Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, and Aalborg University Hospital in Aalborg Denmark teamed up. Kim Overvad, PhD in Epidemiology at Aalborg University Hospital took the lead; Murray A. Mittleman, MD of Beth Israel and Elizabeth Mostofsky, ScD and a post-doc at Beth Israel also worked on it. The researchers were trying to determine if consumption of chocolate reduced the risk of atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is commonly called “afib” here in the U.S. It’s likely you’ve seen advertisements for medications to treat it. Afib is associated with a higher risk of stroke, dementia, heart failure, …

Cool News On Exercise and Brain Health

We’ve pounded the drum on exercise being the best single thing one can do for brain health. There is much cool new news for both adults and kids on this topic. But first let’s recap: ·The landmark study on exercise and brain health was done in 2002 by Professor of Neurology at University of California-Irvine Carl Cotman, PhD and Nicole Berchtold, PhD, also of UCI. They found that exercise directly improves brain function. Previously, the assumption was that the benefit was indirect through improved heart function causing better blood circulation in the brain. Research here. ·Dr. Yorgi Mavros of the University of Sydney and Dr. Nicola Gates of the University of New South Wales research showed that Progressive Resistance Training (PRT) improved brain function and cognition. Research here. ·Mount Sinai School of Medicine Post-Doctoral Fellows Dominik Moser and Gaille Doucet performed research that concluded that a higher level of physical endurance is associated with better working memory.…

Just How Fast Can This Brain Go?

We’ve noticed a recurring theme in recent brain health scientific studies called “speed of processing”. Adults with faster information processing capability seem less susceptible to various forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease.  We’ve previously discussed some of these studies; most were focused on selected groups of individuals such as older adults. Further, those studies typically concentrated on brain parts known to play a critical role in memory formation and fast response, usually the fornix and the hippocampus, parts of the limbic system.

Does White Matter Matter? Researchers at Tohoku University in Sendai Japan have taken a different approach with their analysis. They performed a large study of healthy young adults to understand if the overall amount of white matter in the brain was associated with faster processing speed. White matter is bundles of axons which connect various gray matter areas to each other and to the spinal cord. In our “Vegetables and Video Games” …