How does stress affect the brain?

This research looks at the impact stress has on the brain in physiological and cognitive terms. The results published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology suggest stress negatively affects memory and thinking skills | via EurekAlert

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A study published in the October 24, 2018 issue of Neurology has found that middle-aged people with high levels of a hormone called cortisol in their blood have impaired memory when compared to those with average levels of the hormone. People with high levels of the hormone also had lower brain volume than those with regular cortisol levels.

Cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands, helps the body respond to stress. It can also help reduce inflammation, control blood sugar and blood pressure, regulate metabolism and help with immune response. High cortisol levels can be caused by stress, medical conditions or medications.

In this study, researchers identified 2,231 people with an average age of 49 who were free of dementia. At the beginning of the study, each participant had a psychological exam and assessments for memory and thinking skills. Their memory and thinking skills were tested again an average of eight years later. Researchers also measured cortisol levels in the blood and then divided participants into low, middle and high groups. A total of 2,018 participants also had an MRI brain scan to measure brain volume.

After adjusting for age, sex, smoking, and body mass index, researchers found that people with high levels of cortisol had lower scores on tests of memory and thinking skills than those with normal levels of cortisol. High cortisol was also linked to lower total brain volume.

Full reference: Echouffo-Tcheugui , J. B. et al. | Circulating cortisol and cognitive and structural brain measures | Neurology | First published October 24, 2018

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Memory training for adults with probable mild cognitive impairment

Graham J. McDougall, Ian M. McDonough & Michael LaRocca | Memory training for adults with probable mild cognitive impairment: a pilot study |  Aging & Mental Health | Published online: 10 Oct 2018

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Abstract
Background & Objectives:
This pilot study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of memory training and health training intervention over a 24-month period in people with probable mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Research Design & Methods:
Based on the accepted criteria, and the neuropsychiatric measures used in the trial, MCI was defined as a subjective change in cognition, impairment in episodic memory, preservation of independence of functional abilities, and no dementia. Without a neurological assessment, laboratory tests, and psychometric evaluation combined, some of our participants may have had dementia that we were unable to detect through neuropsychological testing.

Of the 263 total participants, 39 met criteria for a diagnosis of MCI. There were 19 adults in the memory and 20 in health training conditions. Both groups received twenty hours of classroom content that included eight hours of booster sessions at three months post intervention. Hierarchical linear models (HLM) and standardized regression-based (SBR) analyses were used to test the efficacy of the intervention on immediate recall, delayed recall, subjective memory complaints, and memory self-efficacy. Age, education, depression, racial group, ethnic group, MMSE score, and baseline performance were included as covariates.

Results:
Over 24 months, the MCI group in the memory training condition showed better objective and subjective memory outcomes compared with the MCI group in the health training condition.

Conclusions:
Senior WISE Memory training delivered to individuals with MCI was able to forestall the participants’ declining cognitive ability and sustain the benefit over two years in both subjective and objective memory function.

Full detail at Aging & Mental Health 

What keeps you sharp?

The majority of people expect their memory to worsen in their 50s and that there are preventive measures that can maintain or improve cognition. This report outlines the findings of a survey of more than 3,000 people aged between 40 and 98 years old on memory and cognitive skills | Heriot-Watt University | April 2018

The results from the “What Keeps You Sharp?” survey reveals the majority of those asked believe lifestyle and genetics are equally important contributors to the changes they might experience. Almost nine out of 10 people are of the opinion that there are things they can do to maintain or improve their thinking skills; however, when asked if they knew what those things were, less than six in 10 were sure.

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Image source: http://www1.hw.ac.uk

More than 3000 people aged between 40 to 98 years-old responded to the study from across the UK. The report is intended to be used by members of the public, older peoples’ groups and charities, and as a reference for GPs and other health professionals. It links some of the beliefs the public have about the topic to what other research in the area suggests, and directs people to resources so they can follow-up to get more information.

Full report: What keeps you sharp? A National survey about what people in the UK think about their thinking skills!

High-intensity exercise boosts memory, new research suggests

Heisz, J. et al. The Effects of Physical Exercise and Cognitive Training on Memory and Neurotrophic Factors. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 2017; 29 (11) | story via ScienceDaily

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The health advantages of high-intensity exercise are widely known but new research from McMaster University points to another major benefit: better memory.

The findings could have implications for an aging population which is grappling with the growing problem of catastrophic diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Scientists have found that six weeks of intense exercise — short bouts of interval training over the course of 20 minutes — showed significant improvements in what is known as high-interference memory, which, for example, allows us to distinguish our car from another of the same make and model.

The findings are important because memory performance of the study participants, who were all healthy young adults, increased over a relatively short period of time, say researchers.

The study is published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

Full story at ScienceDaily

 

Daily crosswords linked to sharper brain in later life

Online trial finds that the more regularly people report doing word puzzles such as crosswords, the better their brain function in later life. |  Via ScienceDaily

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Image source: Jessica Whittle Photography – Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Experts at the University of Exeter Medical School and Kings College London analysed data from more than 17,000 healthy people aged 50 and over, submitted in an online trial.  The study, one of the largest of its kind, used tests from online cognitive test systems to assess core aspects of brain function. They found that the more regularly participants engaged with word puzzles, the better they performed on tasks assessing attention, reasoning and memory.

From their results, researchers calculate that people who engage in word puzzles have brain function equivalent to ten years younger than their age, on tests of grammatical reasoning speed and short term memory accuracy.

Read more at ScienceDaily

Technology-based tools and services for people with dementia and carers

Klara Lorenz et al. Technology-based tools and services for people with dementia and carers: Mapping technology onto the dementia care pathway. Published in Dementia, February 2017

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This paper provides an overview of the role of technology in dementia care, treatment and support by mapping existing technologies – by function, target user and disease progression.

Technologies identified are classified into seven functions: memory support, treatment, safety and security, training, care delivery, social interaction and other. Different groups of potential users are distinguished: people with mild cognitive impairment and early stages of dementia, people with moderate to severe dementia and unpaid carers and health- and social care professionals. We also identified the care settings, in which the technologies are used (or for which the technologies are developed): at home in the community and in institutional care settings.

The evidence has been drawn from a rapid review of the literature, expert interviews and web and social media searches. The largest number of technologies identified aim to enhance the safety and security of people with dementia living in the community. These devices are often passive monitors, such as smoke detectors. Other safety interventions, such as panic buttons, require active intervention.

The second largest number of interventions aims to enhance people’s memory and includes global positioning systems devices and voice prompts. These technologies mostly target people in the early stages of dementia. A third group focusing on treatment and care delivery emerged from the literature. These interventions focus on technology-aided reminiscence or therapeutic aspects of care for people with dementia and their carers.

While the review found a range of technologies available for people with dementia and carers there is very little evidence of widespread practical application. Instead, it appears that stakeholders frequently rely on everyday technologies re-purposed to meet their needs.

Delirium could accelerate dementia-related mental decline

When hospitalized, people can become acutely confused and disorientated. This condition, known as delirium, affects a quarter of older patients and new research shows it may have long-lasting consequences, including accelerating the dementia process. | via ScienceDaily

 

 

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New research by UCL and the University of Cambridge shows delirium may have long-lasting consequences, including accelerating the dementia process. Episodes of delirium in people who are not known to have dementia, might also reveal dementia at its earliest stages, the research found.

Scientists looked at three European populations — in Finland, Cambridge and UK-wide — and examined brain specimens in 987 people aged 65 and older. Each person’s memory, thinking and experience of delirium had been recorded over 10 years towards the end of their life.

When these were linked with pathology abnormalities due to Alzheimer’s and other dementias, those with both delirium and dementia-changes had the most severe change in memory.

Journal Reference: Daniel H. J. Davis et al. Association of Delirium With Cognitive Decline in Late Life  A Neuropathologic Study of 3 Population-Based Cohort Studies JAMA Psychiatry, January 2017