Alzheimer’s in women: Could midlife stress play a role?

For reasons as yet unknown, Alzheimer’s disease is more likely to affect women. However, new research sheds light on the potential impact of stress on their cognitive functioning.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.

Affecting millions of people in the United States, this progressive condition has no proven cause, treatment, or cure.

What researchers do know, however, is that women bear the brunt of the condition.

Almost two-thirds of U.S. individuals with Alzheimer’s are women, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Full story at Medical News Today

Scientists Identify Protein Linking Exercise to Brain Health

A protein that is increased by endurance exercise has been isolated and given to non-exercising mice, in which it turned on genes that promote brain health and encourage the growth of new nerves involved in learning and memory, report scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School.

The findings, reported in the journal Cell Metabolism, help explain the well-known capacity of endurance exercise to improve cognitive function, particularly in older people. If the protein can be made in a stable form and developed into a drug, it might lead to improved therapies for cognitive decline in older people and slow the toll of neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, according to the investigators.

“What is exciting is that a natural substance can be given in the bloodstream that can mimic some of the effects of endurance exercise on the brain,” said Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, of Dana-Farber and HMS. He is co-senior author of the publication with Michael E. Greenberg, PhD, chair of neurobiology at HMS.

The Spiegelman group previously reported that the protein, called FNDC5, is produced by muscular exertion and is released into the bloodstream as a variant called irisin. In the new research, endurance exercise — mice voluntarily running on a wheel for 30 days — increased the activity of a metabolic regulatory molecule, PGC-1α, in muscles, which spurred a rise in FNDC5 protein. The increase of FNDC5 in turn boosted the expression of a brain-health protein, BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic protein) in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory.

Full story of protein and brain health at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Video game may help aging brain

Zoom! Move that car! Get those road signs!

A specially designed video game, called NeuroRacer, isn’t just for fun, although scientists believe that’s one of its key ingredients.

Researchers say this game may help enhance certain cognitive abilities in older adults, such as multitasking and attention span.  Results from a study on the game’s effects were published today in the journal Nature.
Background

We know that older adults experience declines in cognitive control abilities, including a decrease in sustained attention and working memory.

Previous research has also shown that older adults often experience difficulties in responding to interference – i.e. distractions from irrelevant information or multitasking attempts, said senior study author Adam Gazzaley, professor of neurology and director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

An ongoing trend in dementia research is the emphasis on an active lifestyle to prevent or delay memory loss.  A study of Swedish twins, for instance, suggests that women who participate in intellectual and cultural activities may have a lower dementia risk.  Exercise at midlife for both sexes has also been found to be protective against dementia.

Full story of video games to help an aging brain at CNN Health

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

So-Called Cougars, Sugar Daddies More Myth Than Reality

Despite the popular image of the rich older man or woman supporting an attractive younger spouse, a new study shows those married to younger or older mates have on average lower earnings, lower cognitive abilities, are less educated and less attractive than couples of similar ages.

“Hugh Hefner is an outlier,” said Hani Mansour, Ph.D., an assistant professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver who co-authored the study with Terra McKinnish, Ph.D., associate professor of economics at the University of Colorado Boulder. “Our results call into question the conventional wisdom regarding differently-aged couples.”

The study, published online last week in the Review of Economics and Statistics, showed that those married to older or younger spouses scored negatively in key areas like education, occupational wages, appearance and cognitive skills.

The researchers did not give a range of how much older or younger a spouse had to be to see these effects. It simply found that the greater the age difference, the higher the negative indicators.

Full story of sugar daddy myth at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Should Grandma Join Facebook? It May Give Her a Cognitive Boost, Study Finds

Older Adults Joining Facebook Imporves Cognitive FunctionFor older adults looking to sharpen their mental abilities, it might be time to log on to Facebook.

Preliminary research findings from the University of Arizona suggest that men and women older than 65 who learn to use Facebook could see a boost in cognitive function.

Janelle Wohltmann, a graduate student in the UA department of psychology, set out to see whether teaching older adults to use the popular social networking site could help improve their cognitive performance and make them feel more socially connected.

Her preliminary findings, which she shared this month at the International Neuropsychological Society Annual Meeting in Hawaii, show that older adults, after learning to use Facebook, performed about 25 percent better on tasks designed to measure their ability to continuously monitor and to quickly add or delete the contents of their working memory — a function known in the psychology world as "updating."

Full story of older adults joining Facebook at Science Daily

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education