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Showing posts from 2018

Researchers Say Do This to Make Your Brain 10 Years Younger

Do your parents or grandparents keep a pot of coffee brewing all day? Do they spend the morning sipping a cup of coffee while working Jumble and the crossword puzzle in the newspaper? “Just because there is no evidence that it works doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. It just means that no one has paid for research to determine whether or not it works.” That was my response to one of the earliest subscribers to our newsletter. He is fond of crossword puzzles and was hopeful that solving them would help build cognitive reserve. At that point we hadn’t seen any research that indicated that word puzzles were useful. Guess what: our subscriber and your family members are on to something. There now is research to support that individuals regularly working puzzles are building some serious brain strength. Crossword Puzzles and Fast Brains Here’s a quote from Professor Keith Wesnes at the University of Exeter Medical School: “We found direct relationships between the frequency of word puzzle…

New Research on How to Use Exercise to Grow a Bigger Brain

The Good News We’re swamped with research on how to grow and maintain a bigger brain into old age. Much of the research emphasizes exercise as essential to brain health at every age. Here’s a summary of relevant baseline research, then we’ll move to some new, interesting and thought-provoking research. Background Dr. Carl Cotman and Dr. Nicole Berchtold of the University of California Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia performed research on aerobic exercise and brain health. Cotman and Berchtold concentrated on “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF). Because, in their words “it supports the survival and growth of many neuronal subtypes, including glutamatergic neurons”. In our (very) layman understanding, BDNF is a protein that helps nerve cells do, well, a lot. Grow in particular, as well as get stronger and avoid premature cellular death. Cotman and Berchtold learned that the act of consistent exercise increased levels of BNDF in the hippocampus. This finding was important, b…

Stress Can Kill You; Science Shows How to Beat It.

In previous posts, we’ve discussed the deleterious effects stress has on brain health. Stress is linked to headaches, stomachaches, missed periods and erectile dysfunction. It is also tied to type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, depression and insomnia. It may be a risk factor for cancer and, by weakening the immune system, make us vulnerable to illnesses of all kinds. There is a growing body of knowledge of how using various techniques of controlled breathing can offset stress effects. The Science of Deep Breathing and Breath Control Medical science discovered the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems years ago. Among other functions, those systems control our breathing automatically. At the base of the brain is the brain stem which includes the medulla oblongata. The medulla oblongata extends from the spinal cord into the brain. Among its functions are monitoring carbon dioxide levels in the blood and adjusting as appropriate. Doctor Matthew MacKinnon uses an automobile metaphor…

Go Barefoot - Have a Healthier Heart & Brain?

Robert Parker had a hit with his song “Barefootin” in 1966. Who knew he was talking about brain health. Hypothesis 1 There is a hypothesis that we need to spend more time barefoot. Those holding the view that we should spend more time shoeless base it on the idea that our ancestors spent eons that way. By wearing shoes all the time, our brains are not getting important signals from those thousands of nerves on the soles of our feet. By going barefoot, we restore the flow of information into the brain, keep those nerve pathways active and so on. Hypothesis 2 There is an additional, related hypothesis in favor of us spending a lot more time barefoot-particularly outside. The leading proponent of this idea is Dr. James Oschman. Dr. Oschman has degrees in Biophysics and Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. According to him, planet earth gives off free electrons, which can transfer into our bodies if we don’t have an insulation layer in the form of shoes. And that those free electrons…

Is Coffee Carcinogenic- or a Miracle Drug?

COFFEE CAUSES CANCER!!!Wait, not so fast. You might have seen that CA Judge Elihu Berle has ruled that coffee shops, convenience stores and others selling coffee must publicly post in each location that it contains a carcinogen named acrylamide. Background Here’s the Cliff Notes version of a complex story. In 1986, CA passed Prop 65, which required retailers and others to post a list of any toxic materials that someone might be exposed to while in their store. The list must be easily visible. Since a lot of stuff is toxic in large quantities-e.g-aspirin- or a lot of common household products are toxic if consumed – e.g.- Clorox- the list of dangerous products that could be in a clothing store or coffee shop quickly became enormous. (Probably defeated the original purpose of Prop 65, but that’s a different discussion). What’s “acrylamide”? You probably consume some every day. Any time a starch is cooked at over 250 degrees, acrylamide is produced. French fries. Potato chips. Toast. And, …

Eat Chocolate: Prevent Heart Disease?

Regular consumers of chocolate are about 42% less likely to develop cardiovascular heart disease. A research team from The University of Manchester and other institutes set out to determine if there is a relationship between chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. (Chocolate is rich in flavonoid catechin.) The researchers included Dr. Chun Shing Kwok, S. Matthijs Boekholdt, Marleen A. H. Lentjes and others from the Medical Schools at the University of Manchester, University of Aberdeen, University of Cambridge, the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam and other research institutes. They used data from the massive European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) study. (You may recall that we’ve referred to other research reports stemming from EPIC). They isolated a qualifying group of 21,000 adults in the UK who have participated in the study for about 12 years. The data recorded for that group included frequency of consumption of chocolate (or no co…

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…