Heart Disease Appears to be Linked to Cognitive Impairment

Cardiac disease is associated with increased risk of mild cognitive impairment involving language, thinking and judgment, a U.S. researcher says.

Lead author Rosebud Roberts, a health sciences researcher at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said mild cognitive impairment -- known as non-amnestic -- because it doesn't include memory loss, may be a precursor to vascular and other non-Alzheimer's dementias.

Mild cognitive impairment is an important stage for early detection and intervention in dementia, Roberts said.

"Prevention and management of cardiac disease and vascular risk factors are likely to reduce the risk," Roberts said in a statement.

Researchers evaluated 2,719 people ages 70-89 at the beginning of the study and every 15 months after.

Of the 1,450 study subjects without mild cognitive impairment at the beginning, 669 had heart disease and 59 developed non-amnestic mild cognitive impairment; in comparison 34 of 781 who did not have heart disease developed non-amnestic mild cognitive impairment.

The association varied by sex; cardiac disease and mild cognitive impairment appeared together more often among women than in men, Roberts said.

The findings were published in the journal Neurology.

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2013/01/29/Heart-disease-linked-to-brain-impairment/UPI-17251359521722/#ixzz2JU1eZJ92

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Hearing Loss Linked to Cognitive Decline

Hearing loss appears to be linked to cognitive decline in older adults, according to new research.
The study, conducted by researchers from The Johns Hopkins Center on Aging and Health, Baltimore, analyzed hearing and cognition patterns for 1,984 older adults, with an average age of 77. The survey began in 1997-1998.
Those with hearing loss suffered cognitive decline at a rate of up to 41 percent higher than those who didn’t have hearing loss, the researchers found.  The analysis of cognitive decline focused on “executive function” – a group of cognitive processes that includes memory and attention.
The authors also indicated that the process of cognitive decline would take place more quickly in those with hearing loss, as opposed to those without it – 7.7 years and 10.9 years, respectively.
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Further studies are needed, the authors said, to determine whether treatment of hearing loss could lessen the cognitive decline.

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Tracing the Impact of Amyloid Beta in Mild Cognitive Impairment

The amount of amyloid β (Aβ) in the brains of people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is contributing to early memory loss, and increases with severity of symptoms, finds a study in BioMed Central's open access journal Alzheimer's Research & Therapy. The non-invasive study which used 18F-florbetaben to find Aβ plaques in brain scans to also show that in MCI the affect of Aβ on memory loss is independent of other aspects of mental decline.

Positron emission tomography (PET) has previously relied on carbon-11 labeling of Aβ, however this study uses 18F-florbetaben which can be used for longer and allow more patients to be scanned at lower cost. A higher than normal amount of Aβ was found in half of the PET scans of people with MCI. Interestingly there was a strong association between Aβ and memory loss, but not with other features of neurodegeneration, such as hippocampal atrophy or the white matter hyperintensities frequently seen on MRI later in the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Prof Christopher Rowe, from Austin Health, Australia and the University of Melbourne, who led the study explained why it is important, "MCI is thought to affect between one in five and one in ten of all adults over the age of 65, and, although some of these will go on to develop dementia within a few years, the majority can lead a relatively normal life. Detection of Aβ plaques in MCI indicates early Alzheimer's disease, while a negative scan eliminates this possibility. Consequently a negative scan is very reassuring while a positive scan can lead to earlier and more appropriate medical and social management."

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Menopausal Brain Fog

Roughly two-thirds of women complain of forgetfulness or "brain fog" during menopause. Now two new studies add to the growing body of research suggesting that cognitive decline and memory problems associated with menopause are real and may be linked to  
fluctuating levels of hormones in the brain. 

In one study, pre- and post-menopausal women performed worse on tests of memory and cognition in the year after they had their last period than in the time leading up to menopause. Researchers at the University of Rochester in New York performed a battery of cognitive tests on 117 women ages 40 to 60 who were in various stages of menopause.  The researchers found that in their first post-menopausal year, women performed significantly worse on tests of verbal learning and memory (how well they could recall words from a list), motor function (how fast they could place a series of grooved pegs in a pegboard), and attention and working memory (how well they could recall increasingly longer strings of digits) than women who had not yet reached menopause. These effects were large for verbal learning and memory; medium for fine motor skills; and small to medium for attention and working memory. The study was published in January in the journal Menopause.

While it is unclear why menopause may affect cognition, hormones most likely are involved, according to the researchers. "In the months after a woman has her last period, hormonal changes are most abrupt," said senior study researcher Pauline Maki, director of women’s mental health research at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As a woman approaches menopause, the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen, which is crucial for thinking and remembering.

Luckily, changes in memory associated with menopause appear to be temporary and are not linked to diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, Maki said. But the study confirms that the complaints expressed by many menopausal women are the result of real cognitive deficits and aren't just in their heads, Maki said.

The second study, led by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, suggests that the younger a woman is when she experiences surgical menopause — the removal of her uterus (hysterectomy) and one or both ovaries (oophorectomy), the faster she experiences declines in her ability to remember times and places and understand basic concepts as well as her overall cognition. What's more, the study found, she is at greater risk for the development of brain lesions called plaques, which have been associated with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's. However, the researchers found no link between a woman's age at surgical menopause and Alzheimer’s disease.

More than 1,800 postmenopausal women, whose average age was 78 when the study began, were involved in the research. One-third of the women reported having previously undergone surgical menopause. The remaining two-thirds had experienced natural menopause.

Previous studies have suggested that women who experience surgical menopause prior to the age of natural menopause are vulnerable to changes in the brain that may alter cognitive function over the long term. On average, most American women experience their last period at about age 51, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Women who underwent a hysterectomy and oophorectomy, but took hormone replacement therapy, had a slower rate of cognitive decline than women who did not take hormones. The study did not quantify the amount of time a woman would have to take hormones to experience such a benefit.

"These are preliminary data and do not warrant any new medical advice at this time," said study author Dr. Riley Bove, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. "Further research needs to be conducted to evaluate the neuroprotective effects of hormone replacement therapy after early surgical menopause."

Many menopausal women are bothered by symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems and depression. Some experts hypothesize that these symptoms may contribute to memory problems.

To ease menopausal symptoms, women may be prescribed hormone replacement therapy. Those women who still have a uterus are typically prescribed a combination of progesterone and estrogen; women who no longer have a uterus are prescribed only estrogen.  However, hormones have both benefits and risks, such as an increased risk for breast cancer and stroke.

"At this time, there’s no indication to use hormone replacement therapy for the sole treatment of memory problems in natural or surgical menopause," said Maki.

Findings from the second study, which have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, will be presented at the annual American Academy of Neurology conference in San Diego in March.

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Thought Controlled Headset in Your Future?

Ever wish you could make a pint appear simply by thinking about having a drink? It may not be so far out. A thought-controlled beer tap is on display this week in Las Vegas at the International Consumer Electronics Show. 
“When people focus, the handle goes down and the beer pours, and then when they relax, it actually stops,” says Tracy Chong, vice-president of marketing for InteraXon. “They immediately get it, and they are not intimidated by the technology.”
But the Toronto company is hoping consumers will embrace their thought-based computing technology for more than a party trick. InteraXon focuses on the health benefits of cognitive brain training, and has invented a headset, called Muse, which uses EEG sensors to measure your brain’s signals and then uses that data to control brain exercises, games and other tools and programs.
Read more of the Article

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NFL Players' Brains May Show Marker for Cognitive Issues

A marker for later cognitive problems may be starting to show up in the brain tissue of former National Football League players, according to a study published Monday in JAMA Neurology.
Researchers found that cognitive problems and depression are more common among aging NFL players with a history of concussion.
Brain damage and mood problems among some segments of the NFL population is not stunning news anymore.
What has scientists slightly giddy are those markers: poor performance on cognitive tests also showing up on sophisticated brain scans.
It suggests that post-concussion damage could someday be detectable by scanning the brain.

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Bilingual People Have Sharper Brains than their Monolingual Peers

A new study has shown that the brains of bilingual seniors are sharper than their monolingual peers.
Researchers at the University of Kentucky showed that those elderly people who had spoken two languages or more since they were children had more cognitive flexibility.
Cognitive flexibility refers to someone's ability to easily switch from one task to another.
“There was already some behavioral evidence looking at reaction and accuracy showing that bilinguals slow less as they age in these cognitive areas,” neurobiologist and study author Brian Gold told NBC News.
“We wanted to understand what the neural basis of that is.”
To measure this, doctors used MRI scans of seniors' brains.
While having their brains measured, both bilingual and monolingual seniors were given various tasks to complete, said Medical News Today.
The first task had participants identify whether a shape was a circle or a square.
The second task had the seniors identify the color of an object, red or blue while the third task combined the first two, reported Fox News.
Researchers found that bilingual seniors, particularly those who spoke another language since they were young, were more able to quickly complete the tasks.
Medical News Today says that the study further emphasizes the importance of stimulating the brain as one ages.
The findings were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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Can Brain Games Make You a Better Investor?

At Cognitive Labs we've received feedback from professional investors that our games help them stay better focused and acute. Now the investment community is taking notice about the potential of games:

Read the article on investopedia

Here's a summary:

Games don't always get their due. Psychologists and neuroscientists have long known that games, far from being trivial wastes of time, can actively reshape the human brain and improve a variety of cognitive and emotional functions. As investing is a great example of an activity that draws on a wide range of mental and emotional skills, it is worth exploring how to improve this skill set. 

Investing is more than just memorizing ratios, accounting rules or gimmicky screening formulas. It requires a variety of mental attributes and abilities that gaming can enhance. The more practice investors have in skills such as probability, prudent risk-taking, strategic thinking and asset management, the better their investing outcomes ought to be. Conveniently enough, these all seem to be skills that can be honed through games. 



Cosmic Radiation Could Accelerate Onset of Alzheimers in Astronauts

Research by a team at the Rochester Medical Center suggests that exposure to the radiation of outer space could accelerate the onset of Alzheimer's disease in astronauts. 'Galactic cosmic radiation poses a significant threat to future astronauts... Exposure to cosmic radiation equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease' says M. Kerry O'Banion. Researchers exposed mice with known timeframes for developing Alzheimer's to the type of low-level radiation that astronauts would be exposed to over time on a long space journey. The mice were then put through tests that measured their memory and cognitive ability and the mice exposed to radiation showed significant cognitive impairment. It's not going to be an easy problem to solve, either. The radiation the researchers used in their testing is composed of highly charged iron particles, which are relatively common in space. 'Because iron particles pack a bigger wallop it is extremely difficult from an engineering perspective to effectively shield against them,' says O'Banion. 'One would have to essentially wrap a spacecraft in a six-foot block of lead or concrete.'

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