Exercise can make you smarter: Canadian Cardiovascular Congress

Forget the killer abs — working out can make you smarter.
The Canadian Cardiovascular Congress heard Monday that a group of previously sedentary adults improved their ability to think, recall and make quick decisions after embarking on a four month exercise regime.
“If you talk to people who exercise, they say the feel sharper,” said Dr. Martin Juneau, director of prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute and part of the pilot study team. “Now we’ve found a way to measure that.”
Presented at the congress, being held in Toronto, he explained the study looked at adults — average age 49 — who were overweight and inactive.
After measuring cognitive function as well as body composition, blood flow to the brain, cardiac output and their maximum ability to tolerate exercise, the subjects began a twice-a-week routine with an exercise bike and circuit training.
After four months the subjects’ weight, body mass index, fat mass and waist circumference were all significantly lower with the capacity to exercise up 15 per cent.
But the most exciting finding — according to Juneau — was the fact that cognitive function had also increased.
He says the improvements were proportional to the changes in exercise capacity and blood weight — the more people could exercise (and the more weight the lost) the sharper they became.
“A decline in cognitive function is a normal part of aging (and) that drop can be worse for people who have coronary disease,” says Juneau. “It’s reassuring to know that you can at least partially prevent that decline by exercising and losing weight.”
Dr. Beth Abramson, Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson, says that at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity a week can make a huge difference to manage risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
“There are many benefits of exercise . . . we know it can make us feel better,” says Abramson. “(The findings) suggests it can make us ‘think better’ as well.”
The 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress — the largest gathering of cardiovascular and allied health professionals — is co-hosted by The Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.

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New drug slows cognitive decline in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's

A novel, orally administered drug candidate, TTP488, has demonstrated clinical evidence of slowing of cognitive decline over 18 months of therapy in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. TTP488 is a small-molecule drug that is the first to show clinical benefit from research on the receptor for advanced glycation endproducts (RAGE), a new biochemical target in Alzheimer's disease treatment. 

TransTech Pharma, Inc. of High Point, North Carolina discovered, developed and owns all rights to this drug candidate.

These new clinical results arise out of a trial sponsored by Pfizer, Inc., and conducted by the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study, a national research consortium funded by the National Institute on Aging, a part of the National Institutes of Health. The trial involved 399 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease at over 40 of the country's leading teaching hospitals involved in Alzheimer's research.

Analysis, by TransTech Pharma and third-party experts, of the study data reveals a 26% benefit relative to placebo in cognitive decline over 18 months in the group that received a 5 mg dose of TTP488. A more pronounced effect was observed in subjects with mild Alzheimer's disease, who showed a 46% benefit over placebo.

"At present, no FDA-approved drug has been shown to stop, prevent or alter the course of cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Adnan Mjalli, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of TransTech Pharma. "We are very excited about this data, which may lead to an approvable, novel treatment for millions of patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease here in the United States and around the globe. Because demand remains high for a treatment that can preserve cognitive function in this population, TransTech Pharma will be exploring options for accelerated FDA approval of this novel Alzheimer's treatment."

Dr. Mjalli added his thoughts concerning the drug's novel target, RAGE. "Exploiting the RAGE pathway offers a completely new approach to the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Mechanistically, TTP488 acts, in part, by restoring the normal balance of amyloid protein transport into and out of the brain. Restoring this natural balance in patients with Alzheimer's disease, who have diminished capacity to clear amyloid protein from the brain, may result in long-term disease modification and maintenance of cognitive function."

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A New Study out of Scotland adds to a Growing Body of Evidence that the best way to keep the mind and body sharp is to stay in motion during the day

New research published in the this week’s issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found exercise (e.g. walking regularly) superior to engaging in social and/or mental activities in preventing age related declines in brain volume. The challenge is finding ways to motivate individuals to be less sedentary. TrekDesk treadmill desk helps individuals stay in motion during normally sedentary desk bound tasks allowing more movement through out the day.
The study, out of the University of Edinburgh, surprisingly found that mental and social activities long believed to aid in cognition actually had no effect on preventing a decrease in brain size in older populations however exercise illustrated significant benefits. "People in their seventies who participated in more physical exercise, including walking several times a week, had less brain shrinkageand other signs of aging in the brain than those who were less physically active," stated study author Alan J. Gow, PhD. "On the other hand, our study showed no real benefit to participating in mentally and socially stimulating activities on brain size, as seen on MRI scans, over the three-year time frame."
The study evaluated 638 subjects from Scotland born in 1936 over a period of three years using an MRI to evaluate changes in brain volumes. Only exercise was attributed with the prevention of brain shrinkage.

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Brainwave training boosts network for cognitive control and affects mind-wandering

A breakthrough study conducted in Canada has found that training of the well-known brainwave in humans, the alpha rhythm, enhances a brain network responsible for cognitive-control. The training technique, termed neurofeedback, is being considered as a promising new method for restoring brain function in mental disorders. Using several neuroimaging methods, a team of researchers at the Western University and the Lawson Health Research Institute have now uncovered that functional changes within a key brain network occur directly after a 30-minute session of noninvasive, neural-based training. Dysfunction of this cognitive-control network has previously been implicated in a range of brain disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

During neurofeedback, users learn to control their own brain activity with the help of a brain-computer interface. In the simplest case, this consists of a computer that records brainwaves through surface sensors on the scalp, known as an EEG (electroencephalogram). The system is then able to process and simultaneously represent a user's real-time brain activity, displayed from moment-to-moment during a training game on a computer. This setup is known as a neurofeedback loop, because information of brain activity is continually fed-back to a user reflecting their level of control. Such real-time feedback allows users to reproduce distinct brain states under physiologically-normal conditions, promising to be an innovative way to foster brain changes without adverse effects. This is possible because of neuroplasticity, a natural property of the brain that enables it to reorganise after continual training, resulting from adjustments to its own activity.

The new findings firstly help to address a long-standing issue in the field: whether neurofeedback training can trigger any brain changes at all? "The effects we observed were durable enough to be detected with functional MRI up to 30 minutes after a session of neurofeedback which allowed us to compare brain and behavioral measures more closely in time," says Tomas Ros, PhD, lead author of the study, now at University of Geneva. "We were excited to find that increased metabolic coupling within a key cognitive network was reflected in the individual level of brainwave change provoked by neurofeedback. The same measures were found to be tightly correlated with reductions in mind-wandering during an attention task. Amazingly, this would imply that the brain's function may be entrained in a direction that is more attentive and quiet. In other words, our findings speak for the exquisite functional plasticity of the adult brain, whose past activity of little more than 30 minutes ago can condition its future state of processing. This has already been hinted at in meditation research, but we arrived at a direct and explicit demonstration by harnessing a brain-computer interface."

Senior author Dr. Ruth Lanius, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and a scientist with Lawson Health Research Institute adds: "Compared to the lack of significant findings in the control group that received training with false feedback, our findings are unambiguously supportive of a direct and plastic impact of neurofeedback on a central cognitive-control network, suggesting a promising basis for its use to treat cognitive disorders. We hope that our observations will stimulate more research by the science community in order to fully evaluate EEG neurofeedback as a viable and potentially revolutionary approach for the treatment of brain disorders. We are very excited by this promise and anticipate a host of new studies in this direction, particularly for cognitive disorders. Our current work has now moved into the clinical domain to examine whether patients with post-traumatic stress disorder may benefit from this advance." The study was directed by Lanius and Dr. Jean Theberge.

On Eureka Alert

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High Carb Diet Bad For Elderly Cognitive Function

Seniors who follow a high-carbohydrate diet are nearly four times as likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, especially if their food intake is high in sugar, researchers from the Mayo Clinic report in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Their findings relate specifically to people aged 70 or more years.

They also found that seniors whose diets are high in protein and fat are less likely to develop cognitive impairment.

Most studies have mentioned low carb and high protein diets as the best to keep the weight off, but hardly any have focused on how it affects cognition.

Co-author, Rosebud Roberts, M.B., Ch.B., explained that a well-balanced or well-rounded diet is what really matters for overall physical and mental health.

Dr. Roberts and team followed 1,230 people aged between 70 and 89 years who reported on their eating habits during the previous twelve months. At the beginning of the study their cognitive function was assessed by an expert panel of doctors, nurses and neuropsychologists. Only approximately 940 of them showed no signs of cognitive impairment; they were asked to come back for further evaluations.

By year 4 of the study, 200 of the 940 started to show signs of mild cognitive impairment, with deficits in language, memory, thinking and judgment.

The researchers found that:
  • The highest carbohydrate eaters had a 1.9 times higher risk of mild cognitive impairment than the participants who ate the fewest carbs.

  • The highest sugar consumers had a 1.5 times higher risk of cognitive impairment compared to the lowest consumers.

  • The participants with the highest fat intake had a 42% lower risk of developing cognitive impairment compared to the lowest fat eaters.

  • The highest protein consumers had a 21% lower chance of developing dementia compared to the lowest consumers of protein.

  • When taking into account fat and protein intake, the highest carb eaters had a 3.6 times higher chance of developing mild cognitive impairment.
Mild cognitive impairment, also known as MCI, is a brain disorder which affects a person's ability to think, concentrate, reason, remember and formulate ideas. It is not a learning disability, which occurs early in life - MCI is acquired later on.

A person with mild cognitive impairment is usually able to function independently in everyday activities, but may have trouble remembering things, such as the names of people they have recently met, following the flow of a conversation may be harder than before. People with MIT typically forget where they left things.

Those who become aware of this may try to adjust by keeping notes and ticking things off on a calendar. For a diagnosis of MCI to be reached, the patient must be able to perform all his/her daily activities successfully, without more help then they previously required.

MCI is not dementia. People with dementia have deficits that have progressed more, to such a point that they cannot function independently. A large proportion of people with MCI are eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease some years later.

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Too little sleep can harm your fat cells, study finds

A new study finds that not getting enough sleep wreaks havoc with your fat cells, reducing their ability to respond to insulin by about 30 per cent.
Research has already linked lack of sleep with not only crankiness and cognitive impairment but overeating and weight gain.
“We found that fat cells need sleep to function properly,” says study author Matthew Brady of the University of Chicago in the US. “Many people think of fat as a problem, but it serves a vital function,” he adds.
Body fat stores and releases energy. In storage mode, fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids that can damage other tissues, but this process gets disrupted when fat cells cannot respond well to insulin.
In the study, Brady and his team recruited seven volunteers, all young and healthy, who agreed to sleep for eight nights in a sleep lab. For four nights, each volunteer slept 8.5 hours a night. Four weeks later, they returned for a second round, but this time sleeping only 4.5 hours for four nights. After the fourth night in both sessions, each volunteer took an intravenous glucose tolerance test, which measures total-body insulin sensitivity. The researchers also took fat samples.
After four nights of short sleep, total-body insulin response decreased by an average of 16 pe rcent, with the fat cells reducing their ability to respond to insulin by 30 per cent — a reduction, the researchers noted, comparable to the difference between cells from obese versus lean people.
“Sleeping four to five hours a night, at least on work days, is now a common behaviour,” said study author and sleep specialist Esra Tasali. Over the long term, this could put a person at risk for type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and weight gain.
Their findings were published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine on Tuesday.

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Eating lots of carbs, sugar may raise risk of cognitive impairment, Mayo Clinic study finds

People 70 and older who eat food high in carbohydrates have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, and the danger also rises with a diet heavy in sugar, Mayo Clinic researchers have found. Those who consume a lot of protein and fat relative to carbohydrates are less likely to become cognitively impaired, the study found. The findings are published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
The research highlights the importance of a well-rounded diet, says lead author Rosebud Roberts, M.B., Ch.B., a Mayo Clinic epidemiologist.

"We think it's important that you eat a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat, because each of these nutrients has an important role in the body," Dr. Roberts says.

Researchers tracked 1,230 people ages 70 to 89 who provided information on what they ate during the previous year. At that time, their cognitive function was evaluated by an expert panel of physicians, nurses and neuropsychologists. Of those participants, only the roughly 940 who showed no signs of cognitive impairment were asked to return for follow-up evaluations of their cognitive function. About four years into the study, 200 of those 940 were beginning to show mild cognitive impairment, problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes.

Those who reported the highest carbohydrate intake at the beginning of the study were 1.9 times likelier to develop mild cognitive impairment than those with the lowest intake of carbohydrates. Participants with the highest sugar intake were 1.5 times likelier to experience mild cognitive impairment than those with the lowest levels.

But those whose diets were highest in fat -- compared to the lowest -- were 42 percent less likely to face cognitive impairment, and those who had the highest intake of protein had a reduced risk of 21 percent.

When total fat and protein intake were taken into account, people with the highest carbohydrate intake were 3.6 times likelier to develop mild cognitive impairment.

"A high carbohydrate intake could be bad for you because carbohydrates impact your glucose and insulin metabolism," Dr. Roberts says. "Sugar fuels the brain -- so moderate intake is good. However, high levels of sugar may actually prevent the brain from using the sugar -- similar to what we see with type 2 diabetes."

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Targeting brain, body and heart for cognitive health and dementia prevention

This report looks into the current research regarding dementia and Alzheimer's disease prevention and offers ideas for possible future solutions. Prevention of dementia is the ultimate aim of a large, albeit under resourced, international research effort. The success of this effort would have enormous benefits for millions of people and save billions of dollars in health care costs. Conversely, the status quo will see the number of Australians living with dementia soar in coming years. Many more people will experience and seek help for mild cognitive impairment. There are many different forms of dementia, a syndrome caused by brain disease and characterised by declining cognitive function that impairs daily activities.
Dementia can affect memory, language, attention, judgement, planning, behaviour, mood and personality. Mild cognitive impairment does not significantly impair daily activities, but often represents an earlier stage of cognitive decline. There is no cure for the common forms of cognitive decline and dementia, including the most common, Alzheimer’s disease. A cure may only be achieved by prevention, because the diseases that cause dementia begin many years before symptoms become apparent and gradually damage the brain until it can no longer function normally. Intervening early to stop or slow disease progression, before cognitive impairment emerges, offers the best hope of preventing dementia.
Is this achievable? It requires breakthroughs in early detection and intervention. New diagnostic technologies have been developed that can detect the presence of abnormal protein accumulations in the brain that characterise Alzheimer’s disease. The disease can now be detected by brain scans or cerebrospinal fluid tests in the preclinical stage, before any cognitive changes occur.
Read the Full Article

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