Happy Easter and Spring Break

Well, I just lost my last post...but it was about Easter and Spring break. Here in California we're having warm and cold weather at the same time which is causing swirling winds - feels like Georgia, plus a very heavy rain earlier this morning. I received a Nestle Butterfinger (TM) egg at the office today - thanks very much to one of our fans, that was a nice touch. We'll be back later...


Memory Loss: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus


Are we wired differently? Canadian researchers taking a look at Alzheimer's patients in Canada have just noted that there are differences in how the disease affects patients. The disease appears to attack men and women uniquely. The areas of the brain that are involved in motivation and emotion are different in men and women.

Researchers in Toronto found that men with the dementia were more likely to have damage in the limbic areas of the brain than women. These areas are involved in emotion and motivation.

"It reminds us that we should always be aware of potential biological differences between men and women," says Dr. Sandra Black, co-investigator of the study and head of the hospital's division of neurology.

Black says the findings mean it will become increasingly important for researchers to include both men and women in studies of Alzheimer's disease. Why these differences exist is not known, Black says. "The fact that women go into an estrogen deprivation state with menopause may be relevant."

In their study, Black and a colleague mapped the limbic systems of 20 men and 20 women with Alzheimer's disease and 40 healthy men and women in the same age range.
In the comparison group, there were no brain differences between the men and women.


Real T-Rex Meat

The soft tissue or 'meat' of a 70 million year old T-rex was recovered in Montana. This is remarkable as it represents the first known discovery of ephemeral dinosaur tissue in history.

In an instant, we have a snapshot into the Jurassic period. I suppose Michael Crichton was right. The implications of the finding are incredible:

(1) what can we learn about dinosaur DNA?
(2) we can compare tissue to birds and lizards
(3) we could, theoreticaly, learn to 'clone' such tissue

You can read more about the research here

But for now, here are some of the more interesting parts:

Brooks Hanson, a deputy editor of Science, noted that there are few examples of soft tissues, except for leaves or petrified wood, that are preserved as fossils, just as there are few discoveries of insects in amber or humans and mammoths in peat or ice.

Soft tissues are rare in older finds. "That's why in a 70-million-year-old fossil it is so interesting," he said.

Matthew Carrano, curator of dinosaurs at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, said the discovery was "pretty exciting stuff."

"You are actually getting into the small-scale biology of the animal, which is something we rarely get the opportunity to look at," said Carrano, who was not part of the research team.

In addition, he said, it is a huge opportunity to learn more about how fossils are made, a process that is not fully understood.

Richard A. Hengst of Purdue University said the finding "opens the door for research into the protein structure of ancient organisms, if nothing else. While we think that nature is conservative in how things are built, this gives scientists an opportunity to observe this at the chemical and cellular level." Hengst was not part of the research team.

John R. Horner of the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University, said the discovery is "a fantastic specimen," but probably is not unique. Other researchers might find similarly preserved soft tissues if they split open the bones in their collections, said Horner, a co-author of the paper.

Most museums, he said, prefer to keep their specimens intact.


Discovery of Early Alzheimer's

We've added 1200 members in the last couple of days, so thanks for your support!, plus we just completed our highest day of sales ever, another thanks! The discovery of an early stage of Alzheimer's disease may drive up the number of Americans thought to have the memory-robbing disorder by 100 percent or more, researchers at Chicago's Rush University reported Monday in the science journal Neurology.

>>read more


Top Ten tips for healthy memory from AARP

AARP and the (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) has released the following list of items for healthy cognition - which support and reiterate most of the third party research that is presented in this forum. Without further adieu:

...Health Tip: Shape Up With Mind Aerobics

..there is mounting evidence that memory lapses don't necessarily foreshadow dementia, and that doing mind aerobics can reduce the risk.

Here's a 10-step memory workout courtesy of AARP:

1. Exercise regularly: Studies have shown that aerobic fitness may reduce the loss of brain tissue common in aging.

2. Stick to a healthy diet: Avoid sugar and saturated fat. And eat lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, spinach and beets. The magnesium found in dark green, leafy vegetables appears to help maintain memory.

3. Learn new things: Mastering activities you've never done before, such as playing the piano or learning a foreign language, stimulates neuron activity.

4. Get enough sleep: Too little sleep impairs concentration.

5. Devise memory strategies: Make notes or underline key passages to help you remember what you've read. Invent mnemonics formulas to help you remember things.

6. Socialize: Conversation, especially positive, meaningful interaction, helps maintain brain function.

7. Get organized: Designate a place for important items such as keys and checkbooks. Keep checklists for things such as daily medications or items to pack when you travel.

8. Turn off the tube: Experts say too much TV watching weakens brain power.

9. Jot down new information: Writing helps transfer items from short to long-term memory.

10. Solve brainteasers: Crossword puzzles, card games and board games such as Scrabble improve your memory.


The (so much for the) Afterglow

We've taken our leave from the world of Mickey Mouse...among our other favorites: Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Toy Story, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and more, taken leave of 'It's a Small World' which the kids never grow tired of, Star Tours, Indiana Jones, Soaring Over California and all of the other features...

We also were able to put together brainspeed.com, in collaboration with Natrol and now that the fun of getting that done is over we need to expand and integrate that site with new features and effects. MemCast Radio also returns with plenty of new material.....


MyRobot - They're Cute, They're Cuddly, and They're Ready to Please

NEC Corporation announced the development of a new advanced version of its personal partner-type robot "PaPeRo", PaPeRo 2005, which is capable of more natural communication with people principally due to improvements in its hearing ability even within noisy environments and to enhancements in cognitive ability regarding recognition of handwritten characters and images.

Thanks to NEC corp., we will soon have our own natural language robot which will, according to the sales pitch, be more human THAN human (like the Nexus6) and relate to us in a completely naturalistic fashion...it seems to me rather interesting, yet not to old-media tech writers who would rather talk about the 9,999th MP3 player or who is trying to license ipod.

Oh yes, we have to please the advertisers so that drives the creative agenda. Replace the children with elders in seniorcare facilities and you have a glimpse of one version of the future that we should avoid through diligent brain maintenance: f{cognitive exercise, monitoring + physical exercise + diet}/varR(genetic risk factor) :-)


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea-One to Remember

Fifty one years ago, the Disney film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was released. When I first saw it on TV it was already a 25-year old 'classic.' Nor did I know what a league was...I thought it was somehow related to baseball...

For sheer drama (remember the scene with giant squids?) and the gradual realization of the complete madness of Captain Nemo (James Mason) to the likeability of Kirk Douglas - this is a good story, supported with strong characters and effects.

Here are some comments on imdb:

"The 'Nautilus' is the star of the film...the cast of Actors truly are amazing as they brilliantly help adapt Jules Verne's gripping under-ocean tale. It won an Academy award and so it should have done,as this was a masterpiece to watch.

It has recently also had a DVD release which has features galore.The special effects are also superb for its time.

The team have certainly done a great job,and with Richard Fleischer at the helm,Walt made himself proud.This was Disney's real hey-day,and i feel this is one of Disney's greatest films.... (9.0/10)

Dazzling "Mind" Marketing at the Magic Kingdom

This weekend we are attending ExpoWest in Anaheim where our partner Natrol (Nasdaq:NTOL) electrified the conference with the brainspeed squad, and also a huge electronic billboard truck which circled the Anaheim Convention Center which is adjacent to Disneyland, Disney's California Adventure (my kid's favorite) and Downtown Disney promoting brainspeed and brainspeed.com all powered by Cognitive Labs - at the center of a new concept in combining online and offline products to deliver a completely new experience. Hundreds of people are taking cognitive labs testing at two kiosks and are getting an immediate score that they can walk away with...it's completely awesome...and it has never been done before

The brainspeed squad, all in purple, like Charlie's Angels, patrolled the conference center and handed out tickets to brainspeed violators, the only remedy is to come to the huge Natrol brainspeed exhibit and take a brainspeed test. later on, we'll be bringing you MP3 highlights from the show on MemCast Radio (download and playback on iPod) and of course, our favorite Disney movies...right here.


Steamboat Willie

Who wouldn't like Steamboat Willie. Here are the details:

Walt Disney Studios
Distributed by: Celebrity Pictures
Featuring: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pegleg Pete.
Directed by Walt Disney.
Produced by Walt Disney.
Animated by Ub Iwerks, Les Clark, Johnny Cannon, Wilfred Jackson.
Written by Walt Disney.
Originally Released on July 29, 1928.
Originally Released Theatrically.
Running Time: 7:00 minutes.

Written by Walt Disney, the short was only seven minutes long and was aired 76.6 years ago exactly; and originally was silent, with sound added later and then re-worked. It was even referred to anecdotally by one of the German soldiers in the DreamWorks film "Saving Private Ryan..."

Menoporsche and Alzheimer's

Mind and Body

Shari Rudasky, a journalist for the Indianapolis Star writes the following on 'male menopause' or 'menoporsche' a clever term which I had never heard but certainly applicable in California. It's a good piece. We don't all have to turn into Jose Canseco or McGwire, but clearly, there can be benefits to testosterone, not just for the body, but for the mind.

If we continue to exercise with a regimen that promotes muscular vigor our bodies continue to produce testosterone and the decline in natural levels may be slower. If you sit around in your 30's and 40's and then start a regimen, like the subject of this article did, you will have a problem. If you keep up with weights at even moderate levels, you will retain strength and some explosiveness. Another benefit, of course, is memory and thinking, and a reduced risk of memory loss. Think of all the fibrallations that become visible as tiny spots on the skin when you exercise heavily, especially playing soccer or an intense bout of circuit training with weights. Capillary action flushes away waste from your blood and promotes cellular development - the same thing happens in the brain due to the elevated blood flow.

The symptoms: Loss of energy, irritability, forgetfulness, decreased sex drive, weakness, fatigue, all stemming from hormone levels shifting as the person enters middle age. The treatment: Hormone therapy to restore the body to its previous vigor.

Sound like menopause, the experience women undergo as they enter the later years of their lives? It's the male version -- nicknamed "manopause," "andropause," or "viripause."

Change-of-life malaise is no longer a diagnosis limited to women. Doctors are now using testosterone to treat an increasing number of men whose hormone levels wane as they age.

Nine years ago, Scott Simmons, now 54, felt he had run out of steam. The Fort Wayne man sold his advertising business and decided to get back in shape. No matter how much time he spent at the gym, however, his body retained its less-than-taut middle-aged shape.

He read an article about testosterone and asked his internist to check his level of the hormone. Sure enough, he fell in the lower range.

After his doctor prescribed testosterone, his problems melted away.
Not only did his muscles pop out, his attitude did a 180.I felt so much better, I felt good," Simmons says. "All I remember was, suddenly now I wasn't tired as much. I just felt younger and more energetic again."

Male menopause is not as much a foregone conclusion as female menopause, which every woman who lives past a certain age will experience. While men lose about 1 percent of testosterone each year after age 30 or so, not every man will drop into the low range.

Nor will every man who hits that level necessarily experience symptoms. And not every man who experiences those symptoms will necessarily have reduced testosterone levels.

And not all those who have both decreased testosterone and symptoms will necessarily recognize that there's a physiological problem they can address.

"For men, the problem is, it's so subtle. One day you wake up and you're a grumpy male. And you think this must be normal," says Dr. Christopher Steidle, a urologist in private practice in Fort Wayne.

Some doctors believe that midlife crises often stem from men's waning testosterone levels. Dr. Harry Fisch, a New York physician and author of the "Male Biological Clock," drolly refers to the phenomenon as "menoporsche," noting that testosterone treatment may prove a better antidote for the condition than the purchase of a new sports car.

While testosterone therapy itself is nothing new, a patient's only option for many years was a shot in the buttocks or triceps every two weeks.

The shot doesn't provide a natural steady dose of testosterone, however; it peaks after three days, leaving the men with lower testosterone until it's time for the next shot.

Now, testosterone comes in a patch, as well as a gel which is applied daily to the shoulders, upper arms and/or abdomen.

Although shots are cheapest, running $14 to $20 a month, most patients prefer the skin-lotion-like gel, which costs about $190 a month, says Dr. John Mulcahy, a urologist at Indiana University School of Medicine. The patch falls in between, at about $120 a month. Some insurance plans cover the treatments.

Estimates vary as to how many men could benefit from testosterone replacement therapy.

Studies suggest that about 50 percent of all men have reduced levels of testosterone according to a test that measures "bioavailable testosterone," says Dr. Jerald Bain. He is president of the Canadian Society for the Study of the Aging Male, a group of professionals who study the topic of older men. As many as half of the men who have lowered testosterone levels could suffer symptoms, he says.

Replacing testosterone does more than alleviate the visible symptoms, advocates say. Men who have reduced testosterone levels are likelier to suffer osteoporosis, predisposing them to fractures, Mulcahy says.

Because testosterone stimulates red blood cell formation, it promotes bone development, notes Bain, professor emeritus in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto. The hormone also stimulates various centers in the brain, including regions responsible for mood, cognition and sexual arousal.

Still, the treatment has its limits, cautions Steidle, a clinical associate professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

"It will make you feel better, it will give you back things that you lost. It will help your memory and your mood, but it will not fix your 401. There's a myth out there that it can fix everything," Steidle says.

"Is it necessary to live? Of course not. I tell people it's a lifestyle choice."

Not everyone endorses the widespread use of testosterone therapy -- at least not at this point. A 2003 Institute of Medicine report on the treatment urged caution, noting that not enough was known about testosterone therapy to assure users that it's 100 percent safe.

"Though we don't see any tremendous red flags, I think one has to be cautious because we don't know," says Dr. Dan Blazer, a Duke University psychiatrist and co-author of the Institute of Medicine report.

"The real issue comes down to the fact that there just is a lack of evidence. We're not saying that the drug is not effective, we're saying we need to find out whether the drug is effective or not."

The lesson of female hormone replacement therapy is a critical one, Blazer adds. Once thought to stave off heart disease and other woes for women, HRT went under a microscope and actually turned out to have more risks than benefits.

Two and a half years ago, the Women's Health Initiative shocked women and doctors everywhere with the revelation that long-term HRT increased a woman's risk of heart attack and stroke.

No such correlation is known for testosterone therapy. In fact, about the only known reason to avoid it involves prostate cancer:

While there's no evidence to suggest that testosterone increases a man's chance of developing the cancer, it will stimulate an already-present cancer to grow.

And testosterone therapy may help address other problems. One 2004 study by University of Buffalo researchers showed that about a third of men who had Type 2 diabetes also had low testosterone levels.

Many of these men find that exercise will not improve their muscle mass, argues Fisch, a professor of clinical urology at Columbia University.

Treat them with testosterone, combined with exercise and diet, however, and they will see a marked improvement, he says.

"They say, 'I try to exercise but I can't,' because their tank is empty. If you don't have testosterone you can't exercise," Fisch says.

"I find that men have a real difficult time in losing weight if their testosterone is low. In my experience, it's impossible."

These men may find that they no longer need the testosterone after they shed the weight, Fisch says.

Most men, however, expect to stay on the drug for life. That's not a problem for Simmons, who a few years ago switched from the patch to the gel.

Re-energized, he has opened a string of oil change stores in the Fort Wayne area. He continues to head to the gym regularly, where he bests 22-year-olds in pull-up contests.

"I think I had a mini life crisis," he says, reflecting on his decision to try the therapy. "But instead of a crisis, I found a solution."


Mickey Mouse and Choice Reaction Time

(c) Lucasfilm - don't forget to catch Star Wars III in May

We will be down in Anaheim on Friday, blogging in the land of Mickey Mouse. We are looking forward to it, in honor of that we'll review some of our favorite Disney (Buena Vista) movies between now and then. Lot of hits from the Disney.com domain - don't know why exactly...

Actually there are many links between what we are now doing and the world of entertainment. They are just not immediately visible....sometimes things are simpler and infinitely more complex than they may seem at first glance.

"Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is"Yoda, Star Wars


Blink vs. Grok - What's the Difference?

I grok, therefore I am. To 'Grok' is to develop a deep understanding of something in an intuitive way - so that it becomes at oneness with oneself. (Thanks, Wikpipedia). -Blink- the new book by Malcom Gadwell, in a sense, makes the same argument.

concerning a quick understanding that captures the essence completely but in a cruciform fashion..."just the facts, ma'am."

Grok is supposed to be a Martian word - in the mind of the writer Robert Heinlein (now deceased)whom you may know best as the creator of the story Starship Troopers which became a Hollywood movie about a dystopic future.

What's the difference, not all that much...

Cognitive Labs Launches New Alzheimer's Page

We have just added a new Alzheimer's page and it is pretty popular, based on the number of page views. It provides a review of what is known about the disease in a quick snapshot combined with some areas of action - buying Memory for Life or MemCheck as a Gift for someone else, which is an increasingly popular thing to do, and reading additional testimonials.

But don't take my word for it, go the page.

Premium Subscriber Increase

We have had a nice upsurge in premium subscribers - sales: a sometimes unknown concept in the world of early stage tech companies. So, thanks, let's keep it up. It keeps away the wolf of advertising. If you can afford a few cents a day, give it up for cognitive labs...and, thanks for your support!

Thanks Again


Weekend Hiatus ends

our weekend of cognition

We hope you had a good weekend. We made no posts here as we were just too busy with new projects. There are several new exciting developments on the horizon, however. As you will see, we are adding new features to cognitivelabs.com, which pulled down a higher traffic rank than than alz.org - the nicely done site of the Alzheimer's Association, in the last couple of days, for the 2nd time. We are also closing in on 9,000 new members in the past month or so. But we need your support - you can subscribe here - that's the easiest way. That link opens up in a separate window for convenience.

One of most interesting new stories is the impact of education on the brain as we age. Anecdotally, people have often suggested 'retired' people should take up pottery, amateur astronomy, telescope-building or some other such hobby that involves learning and acting...there is something to it, as it turns out...that learning and education pay dividends as older people can draw on the power of the frontal lobe to assist in their thinking.

APA.org College seems to pay off well into retirement. A new study from the University of Toronto sheds light on why higher education seems to buffer people from cognitive declines as they age. Brain imaging showed that in older adults taking memory tests, more years of education were associated with more active frontal lobes - the opposite of what happened in young adults. It appears possible that education strengthens the ability to "call in the reserves" of mental prowess found in that part of the brain.

A full report appears in the March issue of Neuropsychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

A team of psychologists led by Mellanie Springer, MSc, chose a memory task because even normal aging brings some memory loss. They were intrigued by how highly educated patients with Alzheimer's disease appear to be better able than less educated patients to compensate for brain pathology, which suggested that education somehow protects cognition.

To understand the mechanism, the researchers studied the relationship between education and brain activity in two different age groups: 14 adults of ages 18 to 30, with 11 to 20 years of education, and 19 adults of age 65 and up, with eight to 21 years of education. Springer and her colleagues ran each participant through several memory tests while scanning his or her brain with functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The resulting images showed Springer and her colleagues which neural networks became active when participants tapped into memory. The psychologists then correlated brain activity for each member of the two groups with their corresponding years of education.

Relative to education, younger and older adults had opposite patterns of activity in the frontal lobes (behind the forehead) and medial temporal lobes (on the sides). In young adults performing the memory tasks, more education was associated with less use of the frontal lobes and more use of the temporal lobes. For the older adults doing the same tasks, more education was associated with less use of the temporal lobes and more use of the frontal lobes.

The finding suggests that older adults - especially the highly educated - use the frontal cortex as an alternative network to aid cognition. Says co-author Cheryl Grady, PhD, "Many studies have now shown that frontal activity is greater in old adults, compared to young; our work suggests that this effect is related to the educational level in the older participants. The higher the education, the more likely the older adult is to recruit frontal regions, resulting in a better memory performance." Grady is assistant director of the Rotman Research Institute In Toronto and holds a Canada Research Chair in Neurocognitive Aging.

Education appears to enable older people to more effectively "call up the reserves." Highly educated older adults might be better able to enlist the frontal lobes into working for them as a type of cognitive reserve or alternative network. Grady cites evidence that when older adults tap their frontal lobes, that activity engages the medial temporal regions less than it does in younger adults. She speculates that "if the medial temporal lobes can't be recruited properly, the frontal lobes have to help out." Grady further thinks that the frontal lobes' compensatory role supports cognition generally.

Researchers hope to further understand how mental exercise strengthens mental muscles, so to speak, in old age. Animal brains respond to more complex environments by growing more neural connections; perhaps, says Grady, "more education while the brain is still developing - up to age 30 it is still maturing – causes more connections between brain regions to form. When some of these are lost with age, there are still enough left, a type of redundancy in the system."

She adds that highly educated people keep more active physically and mentally as they age, which also has a beneficial effect on cognition.

Article: "The Relation Between Brain Activity During Memory Tasks and Years of Education in Young and Older adults," Mellanie V. Springer, MSc, Anthony R. McIntosh, PhD, Gordon Winocur, PhD, and Cheryl L. Grady, PhD; University of Toronto; Neuropsychology and Aging, Vol. 19, No. 2.


Busy Brains May Stave off Alzheimer's

This new University of Chicago study on the brain...use it or lose it takes the position that Cognitive Labs has adopted....even though this study concerns mice...the evidence is beginning to mount that the same conclusions can be drawn for people...in fact this is the topic of MemCast Radio which will air in a few hours. And, you can take with you on your MP3 player...broadcasting today from the OC in Southern California. Don't forget to get a free test at http://www.cognitivelabs.com - just click on the orange box.

THURSDAY, March 10 (HealthDay News) — Keeping the brain busy may help stave off signs of Alzheimer's disease, researchers report.

The University of Chicago study found that mice that lived in an "enriched environment" with chew toys, running wheels and tunnels that helped keep their brains and bodies active had lower levels of Alzheimer's-associated brain plaques and protein buildup than mice that lived in less stimulating surroundings.

"This goes back to the old idea of use it or lose it, that using your brain keeps it more active. It's more common sense than anything, but what we didn't previously appreciate is that it might affect the pathology that is characteristic of Alzheimer's disease," researcher Sangram Sisodia said in a prepared statement.

His team's research focused on mice genetically engineered to mimic early onset Alzheimer's disease in humans, including a similar clumping of amyloid proteins around brain cells. Some of the mice frolicked in the "enriched" environment, while the others were placed in less active, less engaging surroundings.

Brain tissue levels of toxic b-amyloid tangles or plaques associated with Alzheimer's were markedly lower in mice with the more intellectually challenging environment, compared to their less-stimulated counterparts, the researchers said.

Analysis of gene and enzyme expression in the enriched mice suggests they may have been better equipped than the other mice to clear the b-amyloid peptides out of their brains, the Chicago team explained in the March 11 issue of the journal Cell.

The findings suggest that an enriched environment acts as a protective factor for the mice by keeping b-amyloid peptide levels low enough to prevent them from clumping and causing damage.

The researchers believe physical activity may be a factor, too. The most physically active mice had the largest reductions in b-amyloid peptides and deposits, they noted. But they added that more research, with larger numbers of mice, is required to determine exactly how an enriched environment benefits the animals.

In the meantime, it certainly couldn't hurt for aging humans to get more mentally and physically active. "It's all very important in keeping the mind active and potentially staving off effects of old age," Sisodia said.


Alzheimer's More Prevalent than Previously Believed

The Chicago Tribune (one of today's top referrers to cognitive labs!) is reporting significant findings from the Rush Medical Center that indicate that Alzheimer's Disease is a much greater risk than previously believed - in fact, the frequency may be twice that which has recently been reported - the figure of 4 to 5 million Americans. The study quotes Dr. Ronald Peterson, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and one of the physicians who treated former president Ronald Reagan in his struggle with Alzheimer's.

I know that Dr. Wes Ashford at the Stanford/VA Alzheimer's Center in Palo Alto (whose CNN Local Edition interview you can hear on MemCast radio - our new MP3 offering for ipod or your PC) has mapped out a very provocative scenario showing that as longevity is attained, paradoxically the risk of cognitive impairments becomes greater and greater. Dr. Ashford is now at an int'l conference in Sorrento Italy, under the Tuscan sun.

We can take it as axiomatic that we will all be living longer and working longer than we thought 20 years ago. But there is hope, and the first step one can take is to make cognitive health your own responsibility - through exercise, training, and monitoring. If you don't do it first, who's going to do it for you? Our healthcare professionals already face a daunting workload with increasingly well-informed patients (thanks to Google and WebMD and other sources). Help them to do their job by becoming informed and making cognitive wellness your own personal mission....apparently you are today...our heaviest day ever in terms of traffic...cognitivelabs.com slowed to a crawl and often was just inaccessible...need to do something about that.


CHICAGO - The discovery of an early stage of Alzheimer's disease may drive up the number of Americans thought to have the memory-robbing disorder by 100 percent, researchers at Chicago's Rush University reported Monday in the science journal Neurology.

Mild cognitive impairment, in which a person has increasing difficulty forming new memories, had been considered a normal part of aging but now appears to be an indicator of Alzheimer's disease, said the report's lead author, Dr. David A. Bennett, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Center at Rush.

The researchers emphasized, however, that most people who worry about losing their memory as they age are not suffering from creeping Alzheimer's.

The findings emerged from the largest study ever conducted on people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. The research, which involved postmortem examinations of the brains of 180 Catholic nuns, priests and brothers, indicates that most of the 2.5 million to 10 million Americans with that condition may already have some degree of Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's was considered relatively rare until 1989, when Dr. Dennis Evans, now a member of the Rush team, reported results of a Boston population study showing the disorder was relatively common, affecting an estimated 4 million Americans. More recent Rush studies now put the number at 5 million.

The disease currently affects one in 10 people over age 65 and nearly half of those over 85, figures that could increase substantially if the early stage is added to the calculations.

"The number of people with Alzheimer's disease could double if you included all the people with mild cognitive impairment," said Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and spokesman for the Chicago-based Alzheimer's Association.

"This underscores the absolute necessity of our doing research to prevent or slow down Alzheimer's disease," he said. "If you couple this kind of information with the baby boomer generation aging into the period of risk, you have a real concern not only to individuals and families, but to the health care system as a whole."

Many people live into their 80s and beyond with their memory intact, suggesting that Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging.

"Almost everybody complains about their memory," Bennett said. "But, in fact, most of those people, if you test them, their memory is fine. What they have is a difficulty remembering."

The difference has to do with storage and retrieval, he said.

"Each day of your life you take a photograph and you put it in an album and then you go back and look through it and see what you did in your life," Bennett said. "When most people say, 'I can't remember,' it means they're sifting through that album and they can't find what they're looking for right away. It takes them longer, but it's there.

"In Alzheimer's disease you stop putting in new pictures," he said. "You can search all you want but the memory is just not in your head."


Awesome outdoor weather

Awesome outdoor weather. As the light fades into sunset here in Silicon Valley we are posting away...roughly 170 people have signed up so far today. We have done some audio work for MoMemCheck and we caught a bug in line 10990 of some of our html code...neutralized (i think) thanks for all of the great commentary from people like Klaus, Doug, and Ashok who are helping us make improvements through their vigilance. coming up...the hobbit


Consumer Marketing will Take a Hint from Neuroscience

No, it's not the matrix reloaded. Or the matrix...what it is involves observing what parts of the brain react to sensory inputs using MRI. By understanding how images cause neurons and dendrites in the brain to 'fire' and recording these patterns - storytellers in the future will be able to customize media to elicit a desired response...whether it is enjoying a film or deciding whether or not to purchase a product.

Great New trick: wiring the brain of the consumer

The Philosopher's Stone of market research may lie in Steady State Topography, writes Paul McIntyre - FairFax Digital (Australia)

The neuroscientists have finally arrived in adland. For years the advertising industry, TV producers and Hollywood film studios have talked of the rosy future when brain circuitry will tell them exactly what is going to turn on the masses before they see it. Now it appears they've got their wish and an Australian neuroscientist is leading the charge.

After four years of trials and tribulation with multinational companies in North America and Europe, Professor Richard Silberstein from Swinburne University's Brain Sciences Institute in Melbourne is taking a punt that the Australian advertising industry will embrace his brain-monitoring technology before he goes global with the concept.

In the 1990s Silberstein developed brain-monitoring technology to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and his expertise is in cognitive neuroscience, which explores the relationship between brain activity and thinking and feeling states.

Silberstein was a central figure in developing a technology called Steady State Topography (SST) which, via a series of felt-tip sensors inside a headset, measures the brain's electrical activity. It is SST and the portability of the hardware which suddenly makes brain science commercially useful to the communications sector.

Dozens of trials with international companies such as Ford and Nestle have produced intriguing results and, if ad agencies and marketers take to the concept, it will revolutionise the market research industry and challenge many assumptions of what constitutes effective advertising for TV, print, online, outdoor and even in-store.

By focusing on the intensity of electrical activity in specific parts of the brain, SST enables marketers to predict how people will respond to messages. The level of emotional response to an ad, for instance, is measured by the intensity of activity in the back right-hand side of the brain. Long-term memory "encoding" resides near the middle of the brain.

Silberstein's work in the application of SST to both the medical and communication industries presents some challenging observations for both professions. He argues, for instance, that what many diagnose as ADHD in children requires a rethink.

"One of the most important abilities is creativity," he says. "The ability to see relationships between things others don't normally see. While attention is obviously important, people who are overly focused and brilliantly organised are quite often the ones who are least creative. The creative ones tend to be a little bit crazy but they have this ability to join the dots."

Creativity is particularly relevant for marketing. In the SST advertising trials, creativity and emotional engagement have proven crucial to messages being "encoded" in long-term memory, an argument touted for decades by ad agencies as central to advertising effectiveness but questioned in the past decade.

"Emotion is one of the most important things. Probably the most important," says Silberstein. "The middle part of the brain relates to longer term memory and the triggers are emotional. That's our understanding now.

"When you experience something that's encoded strongly, and generally that's driven by emotions, even though you may not be able to identify or verbalise the emotion, these regions [of the brain] become active."

The implications for the market research industry are significant. So far, advertisers gauge how "on message" their ads are by asking people to state their responses, either in written surveys or small focus groups. SST techniques address problems such as the influence of dominant personalities in focus groups and also the "light lies" often given in quantitative research.

"This approach does not let us mind read," says Silberstein. "You can't read minds. The only way I know what you are thinking is by asking you. What this sort of technology can tell you is how you are thinking, not what you are thinking."


Oops. The Marines respond.

A former flying leatherneck from El Toro, (The Bull) CA emailed us an hour ago about leaving out usmc.mil in the boxscore below. Sorry, Doug. Not just a division of the Navy, usmc.mil ranked right behind the Army in terms of total referrals.

Thanks for the catch!

WebTV beats Army, Navy and AirForce

We are running an analysis of 'domains' where users come from -- and more people came from WebTV to cognitivelabs in the 1st Quarter (not yet over) than either the Army.mil, Navy.mil, and Air Force.mil domains - though if it was US Armed Forces against WebTV, the Armed Forces would win.

AOL - the free disk distributors now handing out AOL 47.0 has a wide lead over all other domains - a very wide lead. :-)

Mental Activities Slow Cognitive Decline


A new study from Finland that is being reported today by ABC, CBS, Reuters and most major media sources again praises the healthy lifestyle as the best defense against Alzheimer's Disease.

Once more, cognitive-enhancing activities such as mental challenges are discussed as a way to slow mental decline, along with prescription pharmaceuticals and other products that have been shown to impact cognition. Our research led us to believe years ago that an understanding of the connection between cognitive exercise and mental fitness was coming, now that it has been strongly asserted in numerous top journals and published studies, your input and additional targeted research has led to the development of MemCheck - our system that lets you monitor your cognitive performance over time noting any changes. Every day, more and more people are finding out about MemCheck and signing up - you are taking the free test that we offer, and then deciding to become a subscriber - which helps you and also enables us to make this service better. Every day, people email us with helpful suggestions, sometimes compliments, sometimes great ideas, sometimes complaints - which help us learn and improve.

We will discuss the healthy living question further in our radio show tonight. (6 PM Pacific/9 EST U.S.) We hope you can tune in. If you can't make it at that time, the show will be archived for our members.


Hearing Loss May Mean an Aging Brain

Researchers at the University of Rochester have come up with some very interesting and provocative findings - on the extent to which hearing loss is a phenomenon of the brain rather than just the ears.

As we age, we lose the ability to successfully filter information - think of a search engine that gradually produces a greater quantity of less relevant results - well this is the effect of the brain's aging. There's more below. Please continue...

When the brain, not the ears, goes hard of hearing - Eureka Alert

Problems with the brain - not just the ears - cause a great deal of the age-related hearing loss in older people. Researchers are finding more and more subtle problems in the way our brain processes information as we age, so much so that an older person whose ears are in fine shape may have trouble hearing because of an aging brain.

In addition to earlier findings of a specific type of "timing" problem that limits our hearing as we age, the group is now finding increasing evidence of a "feedback" problem in the brain that diminishes our ability to hear. This week at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology in New Orleans, researchers are discussing the results so far of the hunt for genes that play a role in the aging brain's plummeting ability to organize the information our ears record.

"Traditionally, scientists studying hearing problems started looking at the ear," says Robert D. Frisina, Ph.D., professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Rochester Medical Center and an adjunct professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. "But we are finding patients with normal ears who still have trouble understanding a conversation. There are many people who have good inner ears who just don't hear well. That's because their brains are aging."

The findings come from researchers at the International Center for Hearing and Speech Research (ICHSR), an NIH-funded group of scientists in Rochester, N.Y., that is recognized as a leader in research in age-related hearing loss. The center includes scientists from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology and neuroscientists from the University of Rochester.

Sophisticated tests that measure how well the brain processes information that the ear detects are helping scientists sort out the findings. Normally the brain does a masterful job of filtering, sorting, and making sense of the information that flows through our senses every day – the colors and shapes we see, the textures of the objects we feel, the sounds ranging from the cooing of children to the screech of tires on pavement that we hear morning to night. Our brain stem sorts the bluster of information in ways that make it easy for us to carry on our lives.

Oftentimes it's this ability of the brain, not hearing itself, that is diminished in older people who say they don't "hear" well. The loss is detected most markedly in tests that measure a person's ability to hear a sentence amid a background of babble, much as one might hear at a party while trying to speak to an individual nearby. The recently discovered feedback problem is central to this problem, says Frisina. His team has found that in mice, the brain problems usually precede actual hearing difficulties, and that early problems with the brain's feedback system make the ears more vulnerable to damage – without the brain's filtering capacity, the ears are more likely to be exposed to damaging noise.

The brain's ability to provide proper feedback to the ear, by filtering out unwanted and unnecessary information, declines beginning in our 40s and 50s, Frisina says. Without that filter, a person is quickly overcome by a barrage of information that is difficult to sort. It's a little bit like a computer user who would be overwhelmed by input if the spam filter suddenly failed and all sorts of bogus messages started streaming into the "important documents" folder. When it comes to hearing, the increase in sensory information making its way to the brain actually hurts the person's ability to hear well.

"The number-one hearing complaint among the elderly is that they have trouble hearing speech because of background noise. Someone might hear fine in a quiet environment like their home, but when they go to a restaurant or a meeting or a party, it sounds like chaos to them," Frisina says. "That's partly because the feedback system is failing."

To get to the root of the feedback problem, Frisina's neuroscience team is investigating the possible role of a breakdown in calcium regulation in the brain stem, throwing askew the way nerve cells talk to each other and possibly resulting in a toxic buildup of calcium in some brain cells.

Recently the team used gene-chip activity to chart the activity of more than 22,000 genes in mice, comparing activity levels of genes in young mice and their older counterparts. While dozens of genes in humans and mice are known to contribute to congenital deafness, none has been linked to age-related hearing loss in humans. The latest studies offer several promising leads in genes that affect the functioning of brain chemicals like glutamate and GABA, important neurotransmitters that allow nerve cells in the ear and brain to talk to each other.

The difficulties can isolate people from friends and family, beginning when people first have difficulty with age-related hearing loss in their 50s and 60s. "This problem is especially tragic because just when people have time to spend with their children and grandchildren, they can't understand what is going on," says Frisina. "They're losing something they had. People respond to this isolation by either clamming up or aggressively dominating conversation." The estrangement can be severe and can even result in depression.

While there is no cure for age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, some simple steps can lessen its effects. Speaking loudly is an instinctual reaction when talking to a hearing-impaired person, but that won't help when talking to someone with age-related hearing loss. "Speaking slightly slower than usual will help," says Frisina, "as if you were talking to someone who speaks a foreign language.

"Many older people are actually especially sensitive to loud sounds, so the worst thing you can do is raise your voice. What you need to do is look at the person and speak slowly and clearly. Speaking loudly is like turning up the volume on a cheap stereo – it's only going to distort your speech and add to the confusion."

Six years ago the same team of researchers reported finding a closely related brain "timing" problem where people are not as adept as they once were at detecting slight gaps in speech. While the average person can hear sound gaps of about 2 milliseconds apart, someone with a timing problem may be anywhere from 2 to 50 times worse detecting such gaps, which are crucial – though unconscious – for properly hearing consonants and vowels.

"To a person with a timing problem, conversation sounds like everything is spoken through a drainpipe," says James Ison, professor of brain and cognitive science. "One sound leads into the next, smearing words together." For instance, most people know that in the English alphabet, the letter that follows "K" is "L," not "Elamenopee." To a person with a timing problem, short pauses are imperceptible, blurring words together. The problem has the most effect on a listener's ability to hear the first consonant of a word – cat, hat, bat, fat, and rat may sound remarkably similar, for instance.

While most people gradually lose the ability to hear high frequencies as they age, the feedback and timing problems account for many of their complaints about hearing, Frisina says.

"These problems with the aging brain, which nearly everyone experiences, are on top of problems with our ears, which you may or may not have as you get older. For many people, even if they can still hear sounds as they get older, they still lose the ability to hear and understand speech, because of these brain problems," Frisina says.

Frisina and Ison are part of a center that brings together applied research on hearing at RIT with basic neuroscience and aging research from the University of Rochester. Frisina is the associate director of the center; the director is his father, D. Robert Frisina, founding director of NTID and an adjunct professor at the University. Other faculty members at the center include William O'Neill, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy, and Joseph Walton, associate professor of otolaryngology, both at the University. The center is currently funded by a five-year, $6.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.


MemCast Radio Launch. Go MemCheck!

It's time to jump on the Saturn V booster and kick off our new radio show, hosted by yours truly, live from "Silicon Valley" and unplugged.

We will be interviewing leading experts in the fields of memory and cognition and other creative and interesting people who are changing our world...from awesome entrepreneurs to top scientists. The common thread is that these people are trying to change the world for humanity.

We'll also be taking a look at how people are coping and also, offer tools an technologies to help!

We've got our initial sponsors lined up (THANKS!) but there could be room for others who want to reach a large and extrememly well-informed audience that takes action to help themselves.

We'll also be announcing our Cognitive Cares program whereby we give 1% of our revenue back to people, and in some instances - the hard-earned equity in our company. We support our communities - worldwide!

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