A Youthful Brain at Any Age is Not Impossible

Aging may seem unavoidable, but that's not necessarily so when it comes to the brain. So say researchers in the April 27th issue of the Cell Press journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences explaining that it is what you do in old age that matters more when it comes to maintaining a youthful brain not what you did earlier in life.

"Although some memory functions do tend to decline as we get older, several elderly show well preserved functioning and this is related to a well-preserved, youth-like brain," says Lars Nyberg of Ume- University in Sweden.

Education won't save your brain -- PhDs are as likely as high-school dropouts to experience memory loss with old age, the researchers say. Don't count on your job either. Those with a complex or demanding career may enjoy a limited advantage, but those benefits quickly dwindle after retirement.

Engagement is the secret to success. Those who are socially, mentally and physically stimulated reliably show better cognitive performance with a brain that appears younger than its years.
"There is quite solid evidence that staying physically and mentally active is a way towards brain maintenance," Nyberg says.

The researchers say this new take on successful aging represents an important shift in focus for the field. Much attention in the past has gone instead to understanding ways in which the brain copes with or compensates for cognitive decline in aging. The research team now argues for the importance of avoiding those age-related brain changes in the first place. Genes play some role, but life choices and other environmental factors, especially in old age, are critical.

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A Brief Guide to Neuroscience

What is neuroscience?
It is the study of the nervous system and, most notably, the brain. There are several areas of interest: neurobiology looks at the chemistry of cells and their interactions; cognitive neuroscience looks at how the brain supports psychological processes; and computational neuroscience aims to create computer models of the brain to test theories. Questions could include anything from why certain proteins appear in neurons to how the brain supports consciousness.
It seems to be a boom area in science at the moment, why?
The discovery of the first effective psychiatric drugs in the 1950s and 60s made neuroscience both useful and profitable and drug companies have poured billions into the area ever since. In the 70s, neuropsychologists studying brain-injured patients discovered that the mind seemed to be divided unevenly across the brain, suggesting the exciting possibility of an innate structure to the self. The birth of functional brain imaging in the 90s allowed us to see, at least vaguely, the brain in action and the images fuelled a massive popular interest.
A lot of neuroscience appears focused on brain processes we would never notice. How much brain activity is involved in powering the unconscious?
Probably a great deal, although the concept of the unconscious is a slippery one. What we experience consciously depends both on the context and what else the brain is doing. A brain function may go completely unnoticed in one situation but will lead to a distinct and noticeable experience in another. Recent studies on people waking from anaesthesia have put paid to the idea that "almost all" brain activity is unconscious. Massive amounts of neural activity are needed to keep us aware of the world. Probably, like an orchestra, not every component can be individually picked out, but almost all are needed to produce the final experience.
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Researchers: Eating Berries May Slow Cognitive Decline

Its spring, which means it’s the season for fresh, juicy berries. And that’s good news for your brain.
Researchers report in the journal Annals of Neurology that women who ate berries more frequently over a period of years showed slower decline in brain functions such as memory and attention when they got older than women who ate them less often. The findings don’t confirm that eating berries can prevent dementia associated with aging, or slow down Alzheimer’s, but they suggest that the fruits may play a part in keeping brains healthy.
The protective effect of blueberries and strawberries isn’t an entirely new finding. But previous studies have involved animals and only a small number of people, which left open the possibility that it wasn’t the berries, but something else that might be influencing how quickly the brain lost its executive functions.


Can Video Games Promote Healthier Aging?

Berlin, April 24: Videogame technology has significant benefits for older adults by providing cognitive stimulation and being a source of social interaction, exercise, and fun, say two new studies.

The first of the studies was co-authored by Hannah Marston of German Sport University Cologne, Germany, and Stuart Smith of Neuroscience Research, Randwick, New South Wales, Australia, the journal Games for Health Journal reports.

"The elderly often forsake their lifelong activities in exchange for the safety, security, and care of institutional living," says the journal's editor-in-chief Bill Ferguson.

"This trade-off need not require the sacrifice of physical activity and fitness. Furthermore, videogames offer an escape from routine. All of these benefits can improve the well-being of elderly adults," adds Ferguson.

Digital games offer a home-based method to support behaviour modification, motivating patients to take better care of themselves and to self-mange chronic conditions, according to a German Sport statement.

The second study was conducted in three European countries that defined and compared the specific features of videogames that would most interest older adults, the journal Games for Health Journal reports.

Unai Diaz-Orueta, Matia Gerontological Institute Foundation-INGEMA (Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain), and colleagues from Spain, the Netherlands, and Greece identified several main factors that motivate interest in gaming: the social aspect of

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Better Brain Health With Dietary Supplement Use - Huperzine A

A recent study out of the University of Illinois has shown that people who used dietary supplements tended to have less age-related brain shrinkage associated with cognitive decline and memory loss symptoms.

Researchers out of Boston University’s School of Medicine also state that dementia and memory loss could reach all-time high levels in the Baby Boom generation. However, key dietary supplements, like those contained in Vitalmax Vitamins Memorin, have shown promise in fighting memory loss disorders. One of these is Huperzine-A, a strong antioxidant that neutralizes free radical damage in the brain. It also works to increase acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter, responsible for protecting memory and healthy brain functioning.

Note: We do not endorse specific products here, but provide information for the public good in developing treatments for mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimers Disease. Previous experience with Huperzine-A products in connection with cognitive testing using the Cognitive Labs suite of products has shown some efficacy of this substance.

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Daily Exercise Lowers Risk of Alzheimers

A new study by the neurological researchers of Rush University Medical Center has found that daily activity can reduce the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.

The report, published in the online issue of the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, describes how activities done on a day-to-day basis can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

“These results provide support for efforts to encourage all types of physical activity even in very old adults who might not be able to participate in formal exercise, but can still benefit from a more active lifestyle,” noted Dr. Aron S. Buchman, lead author of the study and associate professor of neurological sciences at Rush, in a prepared statement.

716 older individuals without dementia participated in the experiment by wearing an actigraph that could measure daily exercise and non-exercise physical activity. They wore the device on their wrist for ten days and, every 15 seconds, the actigraph would record an activity on a chip; if a patient didn’t move at all, it would record a zero. Apart from the actigraph, participants also underwent cognitive tests to determine memory and thinking abilities as well as self-reported any social or physical activities.

“This is the first study to use an objective measurement of physical activity in addition to self-reporting,” explained Buchman in the statement. “This is important because people may not be able to remember the details correctly.”

After an average of three and a half years of follow up, 71 patients developed Alzheimer’s disease and the research showed that people who were in the bottom 10 percent of physical activity were three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s as compared to those in the top 10 percent who participated in intense physical activity.

“Our study shows that physical activity, which is an easily modifiable risk factor, is associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. This has important public health consequences,” concluded Buchman in the statement.

Health professionals believe that the study can spread an important public health message.

“We’ve known that muscle activity generates neurons in the brain, but this study gives us additional motivation,” noted physician Gary Kennedy, a director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York who has no affiliation to the study, in a USA Today article. “It shows you don’t have to go to the gym. Older people very often don’t want to do that.”

People of all ages should incorporate exercise in their daily activities, with tasks like cooking, cleaning, or washing the dishes, that can cut the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

“These are low-cost, easily accessible and side-effect free activities people can do at any age, including very old age, to possibly prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” remarked Michal Schnaider-Beeri, PhD, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, in an accompanying editorial.

Lastly, with this particular study, it is important to take into account that there will be 80 million Americans who are 65-years-old or older by 2030.

“This is an important message for society as the largest growing segment of our population is old people,” remarked Buchman in an interview with USA Today. “We need to be encouraging physical activities even in very old individuals, even if their health doesn’t allow them to take part in fitness programs.”

Source: redOrbit (http://s.tt/19yho)

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Infographic on Alzheimer's Disease - One of Ten Deadliest Diseases in America

Alzheimer's disease, a form of dementia that causes a gradual decline in memory and cognitive skills, affects nearly 36 million people around the world. It is the only one of America's 10 deadliest diseases that can't be prevented, cured, or staved off. Developing Alzheimer's now ranks as people's second-biggest health fear.

This is Where Games and Exercises that are Specially Designed Offer Hope.

See the Chart Here

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Assessing the Wonderlic Test: Is it Relevant?

Here is an indisputable fact, one of the very few that exist surrounding the mysterious and dreaded Wonderlic Test: the Wonderlic is not meant for football. Over 75 years, only a few thousand of the more than a hundred million test takers have been NFL hopefuls. It is a test of problem solving and cognitive abilities, and has shown a direct correlation with future job performance overall. But football is a different sort of job, one reliant on physical skills, and mental processes that may not involve knowing the age of a boy if his sister is twice his age minus eight.

Does anyone care about the results of the test? Teams don't seem to—plenty of players on the far left of the bell curve have been drafted early. Players sure as hell don't. Leaked Wonderlic scores are only good for troll battles between moralizing writers that will make you dumber for having read them.

Here's another fact: there has never been a study that shows a good Wonderlic score will translate to any sort of advantage on the football field. (This should not be a surprise. Great football players often struggle with the single most widely used intelligence test, then excel. It's called the SAT.) Here's one last fact: there have been several studies that indicate the Wonderlic may be useless, or worse.

One, in 2005, found zero correlation between Wonderlic score and passer rating. Another did find a very specific correlation, but it's not one Wonderlic proponents would like to advertise.

Dr. Brian Hoffman co-authored a 2009 study with Brian D. Lyons in collaboration with California State University (Fresno) and Towson University. The Lyons Study was presented at the 20th and 21st annual Meetings of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. This 43-page study of 762 NFL players over three draft classes comes to two distinct conclusions:

1) NFL performance on the football field was only found to have a statistically significant correlation with Wonderlic scores among two positions: Tight end and defensive back. Correlations were statistically negligible across all other positions. (Yes, even QB.) In other words, with the exception of TEs and DBs, a player's Wonderlic score (high or low) gave no predictable projection for their eventual productivity as an NFL player. It was worthless.

2)Tight ends and defensive backs showed a (significant) negative correlation.

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Study Examines How Fluctuations in The Brain's Activity Impacts Cognitive Tasks

A team of University of Pittsburgh mathematicians is using computational models to better understand how the structure of neural variability relates to such functions as short-term memory and decision making. In a paper published online April 2 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the Pitt team examines how fluctuations in brain activity can impact the dynamics of cognitive tasks.

Previous recordings of neural activity during simple cognitive tasks show a tremendous amount of trial-to-trial variability. For example, when a person was instructed to hold the same stimulus in working, or short-term, memory during two separate trials, the brain cells involved in the task showed very different activity during the two trials.

"A big challenge in neuroscience is translating variability expressed at the cellular and brain-circuit level with that in cognitive behaviors," said Brent Doiron, assistant professor of mathematics in Pitt's Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and the project's principal investigator. "It's a fact that short-term memory degrades over time. If you try to recall a stored memory, there likely will be errors, and these cognitive imperfections increase the longer that short-term memory is engaged."

Doiron explains that brain cells increase activity during short-term memory functions. But this activity randomly drifts over time as a result of stochastic (or chance) forces in the brain. This drifting is what Doiron's team is trying to better understand.

"As mathematicians, what we're really trying to do is relate the structure and dynamics of this stochastic variability of brain activity to the variability in cognitive performance," said Doiron. "Linking the variability at these two levels will give important clues about the neural mechanisms that support cognition."

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