World of Warcraft Enhances Cognition?

World of Warcraft Good For Those Interested in Enhancing Cognitive Abilities?

Playing a popular online game may improve some older adults' abilities to focus their attention, a new study suggests.

Those who spent two weeks playing "World of Warcraft" — a game in which players take on the role of a character, and role-play with others in fighting monsters and completing quests — improved more on tests of attention and of spatial abilities than those who didn't play the game, the results showed.

"It is a cognitively challenging game, in a socially interactive environment that presents users with novel situations,” said study researcher Anne McLaughlin, an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University.

However, the amount of improvement depended on a person's ability at the start — those with the lowest baseline scores improved the most, whereas those with the highest scores at the outset gained no benefit from playing the game.

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The researchers noted that the improvement in thinking skills is likely not specific to this particular game. Any game that includes "multitasking and switching between multiple cognitive abilities such as memory and spatial manipulations, and reasoning," would be effective, they wrote.

The findings were published online on Feb. 17 in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

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Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making

The Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, to be published in two parts, has released its first part, covering aspects of decision making and other cognitive processes pertaining to industry and research. It will be an interesting publication for assessment of the cognitive processes (from Eureka Alert).

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Drug reverses Alzheimer's symptoms in mice: Study

As reported in Washington, D.C. today - (Feb 10) : The use of a drug in mice appears to quickly reverse the pathological, cognitive and memory deficits caused by the onset of Alzheimer's disease, according to a study.

The results point to the significant potential that the medication, bexarotene, has to help the roughly 5.4 million Americans suffering from the progressive brain disease, US researchers said.

Bexarotene has been approved for the treatment of cancer by the US Food and Drug Administration for more than a decade.

These experiments explored whether the medication might also be used to help patients with Alzheimer's disease, and the results were more than promising, Xinhua reported.

The study was published in the online journal Science Thursday.

Alzheimer's disease arises in large part from the body's inability to clear naturally-occurring amyloid beta from the brain.

In 2008, Case Western Reserve University researcher Gary Landreth, professor of neurosciences at School of Medicine, discovered that the main cholesterol carrier in the brain, Apolipoprotein E (ApoE), facilitated the clearance of the amyloid beta proteins.

Landreth and his colleagues chose to explore the effectiveness of bexarotene for increasing ApoE expression. The elevation of brain ApoE levels, in turn, speeds the clearance of amyloid beta from the brain. Bexarotene acts by stimulating retinoid X receptors, which control how much ApoE is produced.

In particular, the researchers were struck by the speed with which bexarotene improved memory deficits and behaviour even as it also acted to reverse the pathology of Alzheimer's disease.

The present view of the scientific community is that small soluble forms of amyloid beta cause the memory impairments seen in animal models and humans with the disease.

Within six hours of administering bexarotene, however, soluble amyloid levels fell by 25 percent; even more impressive, the effect lasted as long as three days.

Finally, this shift was correlated with rapid improvement in a broad range of behaviours in three different mouse models of Alzheimer's.

Bexarotene treatment also worked quickly to stimulate the removal of amyloid plaques from the brain.

The plaques are compacted aggregates of amyloid that form in the brain and are the pathological hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers found that more than half of the plaques had been cleared within 72 hours. Ultimately, the reduction totalled 75 percent.

It appears that the bexarotene reprogrammed the brain's immune cells to "eat" or phagocytose the amyloid deposits.

This observation demonstrated that the drug addresses the amount of both soluble and deposited forms of amyloid beta within the brain and reverses the pathological features of the disease in mice.

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New Test for Alzheimers - 21 Questions

A new Alzheimer's Test has been reported out of the U.K. The test centers on 21 questions and according to the scientists behind the test it is reportedly 90% accurate. The test was developed at Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Arizona.

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Why humans have better cognitive skills than other primates

Researchers have now identified extended synaptic development in the human brain compared to other primates, a finding that sheds new light on the biology and evolution of human cognition.

Over the first few years of life, human cognition continues to develop, soaking up information and experiences from the environment and far surpassing the abilities of even our nearest primate relatives.

"Why can we absorb environmental information during infancy and childhood and develop intellectual skills that chimpanzees cannot?" asked Dr. Philipp Khaitovich of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, senior author of the report.

"What makes the human brain so special?"

Chimps diverged from the human lineage about 4-6 million years ago, a relatively short period of time by evolutionary standards. Yet the differences in specialized social and cultural cognitive skills between humans and chimps are striking, and much remains unknown about the biological basis.

To answer his questions, Khaitovich and an international team of researchers used microarray and RNA-sequencing technology to investigate changes in how genes are read, or expressed, during development of the postnatal brain in humans, chimps, and macaques, a more distantly related primate.

And the timing of these changes may set human cognitive development apart from other primates. The group sampled the prefrontal cortex, a more recently evolved brain region associated with cognition, and the cerebellum, an ancient brain region related to motor control.

Khaitovich explained that evolutionary studies of the human brain often produce murky results, however this approach performed even better than expected, pointing them to a specific postnatal developmental process.

"Among all developmental changes specific to the human brain, one process – synaptogenesis – clearly stood out."

Khaitovich explained that synaptogenesis, the foundation of learning and memory in the developing brain, is characterized by the formation of synaptic connections, strengthening useful connections, and also elimination of useless connections.

The authors found that in humans, peak expression of synaptic genes in the prefrontal cortex is delayed until about age five, in contrast to chimps and macaques where this occurs in the first year of life.

The authors noted that this human-specific change was only observed in the prefrontal cortex, and not in the cerebellum.

"Our findings suggest that the human brain remains extremely plastic and susceptible to environmental input during the first five years of life," said Khaitovich.

"Our study uncovers one of the important mechanisms potentially involved in evolution of human cognition," Khaitovich added.

The study has been recently published online in Genome Research. (ANI)

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