Saturday, December 31, 2011

New study reveals what you eat impacts your brain

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Could what you eat keep you from getting Alzheimers?

The author of a new study at OHSU looked at elderly people, testing their blood, mental abilities and the size of their brains. The results may have you changing what you eat, too.

Dr. Gene Bowman's new study revealed the answers aren't definitive because more research needs to be done. However, if what the study indicates is correct, this may be one of the smartest ways for you to shop. You may want to feed your brain, as well as your stomach, starting with vitamins.

One of the first things on the list of good brain food are nuts. They have Vitamin B-1 and also Vitamin E. But the study also showed combining vitamins may be even better for your head by going for Vitamins B (items like broccoli and leafy greens), C (foods like citrus), D (foods like salmon) and E (foods like avocados and nuts).

Spinach might also be on your next shopping list. It counts for all kinds of things -- Vitamin B-2, Vitamin B-9 and Vitamin E.

Chris Blair was at a Northwest Portland Safeway recently and shared what was in his shopping cart. There were eggs, whole grains and salmon that could improve his memory and mind function. The salmon brings more than just vitamins, though. In the study, people who had Omega 3 fatty acids -- from fish like salmon -- had larger brains with less shrinkage.

There is a No. 1 bad brain food, though. According to the research, trans fats -- showing up as partially hydrogenated oils -- are the worst offenders. Trans fats show up in cookies and crackers, among other things. According to the study, people with even low levels of trans fats in their blood had more brain shrinkage.

Blair said he cares if his brain shrinks.

"Of course I care. That's why I stopped drinking," he said with a smile.

Other foods that may have trans fats are processed foods, convenience foods, fast foods and baked items. Be sure to check the ingredients for partially hydrogenated oils and ask questions at restaurants if you want to use the new research to your advantage.

Cell Phones, Driving, And Multitasking

This December the National Transportation Safety Board of the U.S. recommended a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving. According to NTSB member Robert Sumwalt, "This (distracted driving) is becoming the new DUI. It's becoming epidemic.” For some, the NTSB recommendation is a sign of the forces of light winning the day, and for others, proof of the impending apocalypse. Regardless of your emotional reaction to the issue, the subject cuts right to the heart of questions about the attention capacity of the human brain.
 The essence of the NTSB’s problem with cell phones is that they are too distracting. Studies show that talking while using a hands-free headset is just as likely to cause accidents as talking without a headset. Human brains appear to be optimized to focus on one thing at a time. While it is, of course, possible to attend to two or more things simultaneously, we do neither task at the level of quality that is possible if it we were to do it on its own. fMRI scans show that learning while multitasking engages different areas of the brain than learning while single-tasking.

The human brain does not do as well under multitasking situations, and driving while talking on the cell phone involves a particularly difficult sort of multitasking: doing a visual task (like driving) and doing an auditory task (like talking on the phone) at the same time. This sort of multitasking requires the use of two separate brain regions simultaneously. And a 2001 study by Marcel Just at Carnegie Mellon showed that when volunteers did one task at a time, they used 37 voxels (small brain regions), but when they did both a visual and an auditory task simultaneously, they only used 42 voxels—far less than double. The brain has only so much processing capacity, and adding new tasks bogs all of them down. As Just commented, “You can't just keep piping new things through, and expect the brain to keep up. With practice, the brain can become more efficient at carrying out multiple tasks, but performance is never as good as when the tasks are carried out independently.”

But is talking on a cell phone fundamentally worse or different from talking to another passenger? At least a conversational passenger is also scanning the road and could help alert drivers to oncoming dangers—something a cell phone conversant can never do. There are plenty of other distractions to driving: children, radios, eating, even shaving or doing makeup. Though traffic fatalities are at their lowest point since 1949 (thanks to improved safety features, more seat belt usage, and safer roads), the threat of distracted driving still worries many policymakers in the wake of incidents like the Chatsworth Train Disaster, in which the engineer was texting while driving. And as more and more gadgets become available as possible sources of distraction, the level of distractedness across the board may be rising.

In his famous definition of attention, William James noted that it “...implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrained state" (1). It appears that today human attention is at an all-time premium, yet few of us seem to have enough to go around. The brain evolved under conditions that were almost certainly far less stimulating, and we’ve created an artificial environment where the intensity, duration, and variety of stimulation is beginning to tax the upper limits of normal attention. This may have some very interesting consequences in the near future, from bans on the use of some technologies (a la the NTSB stance or the cell phone ban in many schools), to the use of attention-boosting drugs such as Modafinil, to the proliferation of attention training techniques like mindfulness practice. Or we may just learn to turn the gadgets off when needed, just as we have learned as a culture that it’s not a good idea to drink and drive.

Childhood Abuse May Cause Brain Changes in Adolescence (Video)

(December 30, 2011 - Insidermedicine) Maltreatment in childhood has been linked with brain changes in adolescence, according to research published in the December issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Childhood Abuse May Cause Brain Changes in Adolescence (Video)Maltreatment in childhood has been linked with the following health concerns in adulthood:
•    obesity
•    depression
•    smoking
Researchers from Yale University in New Haven asked 42 adolescents who had never been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition to complete questionnaires about their experiences with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as well as physical and emotional neglect in childhood. The participants also underwent brain imaging, and the investigators looked at whether differences in brain structure were associated with a history of abuse or neglect. The participants were recruited from a sample of teens who were identified at birth as being at high risk for maltreatment in childhood as well as from the general local population.

Overall, the more trauma experienced in childhood, the greater the volume reduction in certain key areas of the brain involved in intellect, reasoning, memory, regulation of emotions, and impulse control. Certain kinds of abuse and neglect were associated with specific patterns of brain volume decrease. The effects were also influenced by gender. Among girls, abuse was more likely to affect areas of the brain involved in emotional regulation, while in boys similar experiences were more likely to affect areas of the brain believed to be involved in impulse control.

Today’s research demonstrates how childhood abuse and neglect can produce clear-cut brain changes that may make adolescents more likely to have behavior problems, even if they do not meet the formal criteria for a psychiatric condition.

Disorder focus of university course

The University of Ulster has unveiled a new programme looking at the treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder

A pioneering new university programme hopes to help sufferers of a disorder that can affect how they relate to other people.
The University of Ulster has unveiled the initiative on the treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
SPD is a condition that prevents sensory messages in the brain from being organised into appropriate responses, and affects everyday activity such as behaviour, learning and movement.
The university's Dr Greg Kelly said: "Sensory Integration influences every aspect of our development, from the sense of touch required in early bonding to the development of play skills and the impact of the brain and movement systems on emotional security, balance, speed and timing skills."
The new degree aims to expand and enhance management of SPD by occupational therapists and other health practitioners.
The university said the new qualification is thought to be the only one of its kind in Europe and perhaps even worldwide.
Dr Kelly said: "We have already had enquiries from therapists in Russia, Iran and India who are excited about studying for a Masters in sensory integration at the University of Ulster."
The new degree is based on a series of modules conducted in partnership with the not-for-profit educational organisation Sensory Integration Network (UK and Ireland).
Sue Allen, chair of the Sensory Integration Network, said: "Recent advances in neuroscience support the application of the theory of sensory integration as a treatment approach with children, adolescents, adults and with older adults."

Connective cells in the brain responsible for learning and memory?

Glia Cells
Not many of us may be aware of glia cells in the brain that are responsible for meshing in neurons together, thereby shielding cells in the process. Throwing some light on the mechanism, scientists from the Tel Aviv University assert that glia cells are principal components governing brain plasticity, learning and adaptation processes.
However, professionals have not been very clear on the role played by these cells in regulating thought processes and memory. The team put forth that glia cells do not merely glue neurons together, but regulate many other prime processes involved in the brain.
De Pi Ph.D. student Maurizio De Pittà of TAU’s Schools of Physics and Astronomy and Electrical Engineering, commented, “Glia cells are like the brain’s supervisors. By regulating the synapses, they control the transfer of information between neurons, affecting how the brain processes information and learns.”
In this research, the investigators created a computerized model which integrated the effect of glia cells on data transferred by synapses. This prototype could also be incorporated into brain networks like microchips and computer software which may aid in the prognosis of diseases like Alzheimer’s and epilepsy.
Basically, the researchers revealed that glia cells do much more than just holding the neuron cells together, as they function as central instructors in the brain. Moreover, many experts are of the opinion that glia cells could help the neurons accomplish certain tasks that they may not be able to carry out singlehandedly.
The aforesaid model may lead to the formulation of better brain inspired algorithms and microchips that replicate neuronal networks. This research is published in the journal, PLoS Computational Biology.

Retrain your brain to achieve a healthier self-image

Learning neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), its adherents say, is like discovering the user manual to your mind. It is meant to show you how what you think (neuro), say (linguistic) and do (behavioural patterns; ie, programming) directly impact the results you get in life, both the good and the bad. And when you understand how you're creating your life - at work, at home and socially - the reasoning goes, you're then in the best possible position to make a few changes so that you can consistently create more and more of what you want. Devotees says NLP puts you back in the driver's seat, offers you clarity of vision to pursue your goals and gives you the fuel to head in whatever direction is right for you.
"The images, beliefs and values you hold deep in your unconscious mind control your thoughts, actions and body," says Carol Talbot, an "empowerment" expert, founder of Matrix Training and the region's most internationally experienced and qualified NLP trainer. "Of all the options for personal development, what gives NLP such strong positioning is the way it offers you a tried and tested way to understand your own mind better and to direct your thoughts in far more productive ways. It's a systematic road map to break out of any mental and spiritual ruts to kick-start a lifetime of happiness and contentment."
NLP, of course, is one of a raft of techniques that work to address thought processes as a way of healing or self-improvement. Other well-known practices include timeline therapy, hypnotherapy and mind coaching; plus, one could always choose to be one's own life coach with the multitude of self-help books available on the market.
Shivani Adalja is a New Age well-being consultant and founder of the Alignment Institute in Abu Dhabi. She believes that converts to practices such as NLP are on the rise.
"The awareness about these techniques has spread in the last few years," Adalja says. "People are looking for more holistic solutions rather than quick fixes. The connection between mind and body has become even more evident and people are keen to try different types of therapies."
Adalja believes the results of such programmes speak for themselves and that these mind therapies can be a quick healing process.
"Depending on how deep-rooted a problem is, the client can feel different immediately after the first session," she says. "If the client is having issues with weight, self-confidence or has been through extended emotional trauma, then it might take six to 10 sessions to see results.

Though a devotee of this type of therapy, Adalja also notes that mainstream medicine and practices have their place.
"When I sit with a client in the first preliminary sessions," she says, "I am normally able to tell if the problem is physical or psychosomatic. I have diverted many clients to go visit their doctor or another medical practitioner before they start sessions with me if I feel they need another type of 'help'."
So can these mind techniques actually help everyone or assist in changing people's lives or the way they think? Enthusiasts of NLP say the programme's sheer scope makes it relevant to pretty much anyone, from housewives to entrepreneurs, students to CEOs and everyone in between. The only conditions, goes the warning, are a willingness to address the issues holding one back, a determination to take one's life to the next level and an acceptance that responsibility for success ultimately lies with the individual and the amount of effort he or she is prepared to plough into getting results.
Furthermore, according to Adalja, finding a good practitioner is key.
"People need to do their research to find a good practitioner," she says. "That's half the battle won. Always ask around and gather some information before making an appointment."

The vital years when brains spring to life

VIEWED superficially, the part of youth that the psychologist Jean Piaget called middle childhood looks tame and uneventful, a quiet patch of road on the otherwise hairpin highway to adulthood.
Said to begin around five or six, when toddlerhood has ended, and concluding when the teen years begin, middle childhood lacks the physical flamboyance of the epochs fore and aft: no gotcha cuteness of babydom, no secondary sexual billboards of pubescence.
Yet as new findings from neuroscience, evolutionary biology, paleontology and anthropology make clear, middle childhood is anything but a bland placeholder. To the contrary, it is a time of great cognitive creativity and ambition, when the brain has pretty much reached its adult size and can focus on threading together its private intranet service - on forging, organising, amplifying and annotating the tens of billions of synaptic connections that allow brain cells and brain domains to communicate.
Subsidising the deft frenzy of brain maturation is a distinctive endocrinological event called adrenarche, when the adrenal glands begin pumping out powerful hormones. Researchers have only begun to understand adrenarche in any detail, but they see it as a signature feature of middle childhood.
Middle childhood is when the parts of the brain most closely associated with being human finally come online: our ability to control our impulses, to reason, to focus, to plan for the future. Young children may know something about death and see monsters lurking under every bed, but only in middle childhood is the brain capable of practising so-called terror management, of accepting one's inevitable mortality or at least pushing thoughts of it aside.
Other researchers studying the fossil record suggest that a prolonged middle childhood is a fairly recent development in human evolution, a luxury of unfolding that our cousins the Neanderthals did not seem to share. Still others have analysed attitudes towards middle childhood historically and cross-culturally. The researchers have found that virtually every group examined recognises middle childhood as a developmental watershed, when children emerge from the shadows of dependency.
The anatomy of middle childhood can be subtle. Adult teeth start growing in, allowing children to diversify their diet beyond the mashed potatoes and parentally dissected Salisbury steak stage. The growth of the skeleton, by contrast, slows from the vertiginous pace of early childhood - much of the remaining growth awaits the super-spurt of puberty. ''Adulthood is defined by being skeletally as well as sexually mature,'' says Jennifer Thompson of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. ''A girl may have her first period at 11 or 12, but her pelvis doesn't finish growing until about the age of 18.''
With her colleague Andrew Nelson of the University of Western Ontario, Thompson analysed fossil specimens from Neanderthals, Homo erectus and other early hominids, and concluded that their growth pattern was more like that of a chimpanzee than a modern human: By age 12 or 14, they had reached adult size.
Life for Neanderthals was nasty and short, Thompson says, and children had to get big fast, which is why they hurtled through adolescence. Our extreme form of dilated childhood did not appear until the advent of modern Homo sapiens, roughly 150,000 years ago, Thompson says, when adults began living long enough to ease pressure on the young to hurry up and breed.
In middle childhood, the brain is at its peak for learning, organised enough to attempt mastery yet still fluid, elastic, neuronally gymnastic. Children have lost the clumsiness of toddlerhood and can become physically gymnastic, too, and start practising their fine motor skills.
Middle childhood is the time to make sense and make friends. ''This is the period when kids move out of the family context and into the neighbourhood context,'' Benjamin Campbell, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, says.
The all-important theory of mind arises: the awareness that other people have minds, plans and desires of their own. Children become obsessed with social groups and divide along gender lines. They have an avid appetite for learning local social rules, whether of games, slang, style or behaviour. They are keenly attuned to questions of fairness and justice and instantly notice those grabbing more than their share.
The mental and kinesthetic pliancy of middle childhood can be traced in part to adrenarche, researchers say, when signals from the pea-size pituitary at the base of the brain prod the adrenal glands to unleash their hormonal largesse.
Evidence also suggests that the adrenal hormones divert glucose in the brain to foster the maturation of brain regions vital to interpreting social and emotional cues.
In middle childhood, the brain is open for suggestions. What do I need to know? What do I want to know? Well, you could take up piano, chess or juggling, learn another language or how to ski. Or you could go outside and play with your friends. If you learn to play fair, friends will always be there.

Diabetes-related Alzheimer's set to increase

The rising tides of Alzheimer’s disease and obesity could join in the next 40 years to create a flood of dementia associated with type 2 diabetes.
The outlook may be dire, researchers said at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease. If the trends in child and adolescent obesity continue unabated, by 2040 one-third of the 81 million expected Alzheimer’s cases worldwide maybe a direct result of obesity-driven diabetes.
We need to identify the contributions to this increase in dementia and figure out how to decrease this burden. In the setting of diabetes and Alzheimer’s, this means we need to think about intervening earlier in the process and treating across the life span. Our focus should be prevention, which is probably more effective when begun at younger ages.
The primary investigator on the Sacramento Area Latino Study on Aging (SALSA), a prospective cohort study that has been ongoing since 1997, SALSA consists entirely of Mexican Americans, whose high rates of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension create an ideal population in which to study the impact of these disorders on cognition.
At the meeting of the University of California, San Francisco were presented 9 years of follow-up data on this group of 1,789 men and women (mean baseline age 72 years). At the study entrance, 33 percent of the group had type 2 diabetes and 40 percent had a body mass index of more than 25kg/m2. More than half had metabolic syndrome.
Over 9 years, 158 incident cases of dementia or non- dementia cognitive impairment developed. After controlling for age, gender, girth, diabetes treatment, fasting insulin, and C-reactive protein, it was said that the presence of diabetes at baseline more than doubled the risk of dementia or cognitive impairment. This translates into a population attributable risk of 19 percent of all these dementia cases were the direct result of type 2 diabetes.
When carried forward in accordance with projected increases in obesity, the 19 percent figure means that by 2040, 24 million cases of dementia could be directly tied to type 2 diabetes. However, there are no randomized controlled trials that support the notion that we should be treating (cognitive impairment) with an antidiabetic drug. Instead, the most effective method is probably to prevent obesity and insulin resistance — the two factors that most strongly influence the development of diabetes.
“The concern is this current epidemic of diabetes associated with insulin resistance, in conjunction with a rapidly aging population, foreshadows an epidemic of Alzheimer’s,” and although it make sense to investigate the impact that diabetes treatment might have on cognition, an incredibly effective intervention already exist.
Exercise is the most potent insulin-sensitizing agent we have, said a geriatrician and Alzheimer’s researcher at the Veterans Administration Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle. “A single bout of aerobic exercise improves insulin sensitivity for 24 hours, It’s much more potent than any medication. Caloric restriction also lowers hyperinsulinemia and improves insulin sensitivity.
A large body of work now suggests that insulin resistance increases the risk of Alzheimer’s by multiple mechanism. Far from being active only on the periphery, insulin readily crosses the blood brain barrier and binds to receptors located throughout the brain. Once in the brain, insulin interacts with amyloid beta in several ways, increasing its intracellular clearance through insulin degrading enzyme and apparently even protecting neuros from the protein’s toxic effects.
“This has been known for some time, but recent research has shown that amyloid beta may have its own independent effects in insulin signaling..”
A series of experiments concluded that soluble oligomers of amyloid beta can remove insulin receptors from the dendritic plasma membranes of hippocampal neutrons. The study concluded that insulin receptor signaling downregulated the oligomeric binding sites. The addition of rosiglitazone potentiated this effect, suggesting that insulin-sensitizing agents may have some role in cognitive protection. “Insulin appears to mitigate many of the negative effects of amyloid and regulates it clearance, while beta amyloid appears to reduce insulin signaling. So high levels of insulin in the brain can induce a brain insulin-resistance by removing the insulin receptors from the nerve cell membranes.”
Recently investigated insulin’s effect on memory in a group of 33 patients with Alzheimer’s or mild impairment and 59 elderly controls. The patients received placebo or five escalating doses of intranasal insulin, which travels directly into the central nervous system along the olfactory and trigeminal vasculature. Cognition was tested 15 minutes after each treatment. “We saw a 50 percent improvement in memory compared to baseline with the highest dose,”
Insulin also affects vascular function in the brain. “It’s very well known that insulin resistance is accompanied by peripheral vascular dysfunction, but the understanding that this may also manifest in the brain is very new and potentially important.”
In insulin resistance, there is a down-regulation of the phosphoinositide-3 (PI3) kinase pathway, which mediates vascular relaxation. But the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase pathway, which mediates vasoconstriction.” “This imbalance is thought to underlie many of the vascular dysfunctions associated with insulin resistance.”
This is in a recent study of 196 brains (71 with dementia). The brains were divided into four groups: normal, diabetic without dementia, diabetic with dementia and dementia without diabetes.
“Saw a surprising pattern when looked at plaques and tangles: The brains of the patients with dementia but no diabetes had a high load, as anticipated, but the brains of diabetic patient with dementia had a plaque load that was similar to the normal controls.”
The patients with both dementia and diabetes did, however, show high levels of microvascular lesions, which were absent in the other groups.” The volume of the lesions is small, so they are almost certainly not directly responsible for the cognitive impairment, but this finding may point to some broader based vascular dysfunction.”

ADHD: Your Brain On Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Hey everybody, Cara Santa Maria here. Nearly 10% of kids in this country have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Some estimates say it's closer to 16%, and the numbers appear to be rising.
But does this mean that more and more kids are showing symptoms of ADHD? Or have they always had the disorder, but now more and more kids are being appropriately diagnosed? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be: who knows?
What we do know is that ADHD is a developmental disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness to the extent that it causes significantly impaired functioning at school and home. The cause of ADHD is still up for debate. A handful of researchers think it shouldn’t even qualify as a disorder.

However, evidence indicates that the brains of children with ADHD are different than those of kids who’ve never been diagnosed. In particular, the left prefrontal cortex of the brain is smaller and quieter in children with ADHD, which may explain why focused attention is such a task for them. Also, the motor cortex appears to develop more quickly, which is probably linked to their hyperactivity.
ADHD medications work by targeting cells in the prefrontal cortex and boosting levels of two neurotransmitters there: norepinephrine (the brain's adrenaline) and dopamine. Kids with ADHD are thought to have low levels of these chemicals, and stimulant medications work to bring them up to normal. Nearly 3 million children take drugs like Ritalin (a methylphenidate drug) or Adderall (an amphetamine). These drugs improve focus, concentration, and attention, but their use is highly controversial. There’s evidence linking them to stunted growth, reduction in appetite, and children taking them are more often depressed than those who don't. What’s more, the long-term effects of ADHD meds on a child's heart and brain are unknown.
On another note, a study published last month in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice showed that, surprise surprise, 40% of college students who were prescribed stimulant medication for ADHD abused it. And this is self-report data! Who knows how much higher the number may actually be, given the tendency for survey subjects to lie about socially irresponsible behaviors. One study found that over the course of 8 years, calls to a poison control center about teenage abuse of ADHD medication rose 76%.
And, contrary to what clinicians used to think, ADHD doesn’t just effect kids. Nearly 4% of the adult population in the US currently carry an ADHD diagnosis, and around 8% have been diagnosed at some point in their lives. Studies show that adults with ADHD deal with higher than average rates of divorce, substance abuse, unemployment, and disability. But there is hope on the horizon. Along with drug treatment, cognitive behavioral therapies seem to work. And although alternative treatments like neurofeedback have been met with skepticism, new data appears to support their efficacy.

New Year, New You - Resolve to be Good to your Brain This Year

Marcia Douglas
An estimated 40 to 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Most of us resolve to become physically fit, fiscally fit, re-organized, re-energized and overall healthier, but in that quest we often forget one of the most important aspects of complete health – mental fitness and strength.

If you don’t think you need a brain boost because you’re feeling young and fit and mentally strong, think again. A University of Virginia study shows that the average person's brain peaks at age 22! Even so, the brain has the ability to grow and change at any age, and there are proven ways to get your brain in tip-top shape, and in some cases, make it better than ever. The key is quality – quality nutrition, sleep, socialization, and exercise, both physical and mental.
When it comes to brain-boosting foods, it seems research uncovers a new super food every other day. Over time it’s become clear that many different types of foods are necessary for optimum mental functioning, including fluids, complex carbohydrates, proteins, beneficial fats, and various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Some of the more important trace elements include Vitamin B-1 which enables the metabolism of glucose. Potassium, sodium and calcium are used for nerve cell signaling and metabolic reactions, and zinc is important for concentration and memory. Iron is essential for supplying oxygen to the brain. In one study women with sufficient iron in their blood performed cognitive exercises better and faster than women who were iron deficient. After iron supplementation, the formerly anemic women did five to seven times better on their cognitive performance.
Unsaturated fats also protect the brain and buttress brain function, especially the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and plant based sources like Mila, a proprietary blend of the chia seed. Protein heightens attention and produces structural materials and transporters for the brain. Water, of course, is vital for brain function as well. Studies show that even slight dehydration slows the rate nutrients can enter the brain, producing short-term memory deficits, reasoning difficulties and other cognitive problems.
Keeping our brains optimally powered is also dependent on when we eat. The brain can’t store carbohydrates like muscles can so it requires a constant supply of glucose. Eating regularly ensures blood glucose levels don’t dip or surge causing concentration issues and other mental lapses. Eating breakfast is critically important. Results from 22 studies of school-age children show that breakfast eaters have better memories, test scores and school attendance rates.
Healthy friendships also prove healthy for your brain. Research from Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center shows having close friends and staying in contact with family provides protection against Alzheimer's disease. Other studies show people with extensive social networks are at reduced risk of cognitive impairment.
Sleep supports your cognitive abilities and brain function by buttressing your brains ability to quickly process new information and concepts and to organize, store and recall memories.
Physical exercise is extremely beneficial to mental function. The immediate effects are obvious – it gets the oxygen flowing to the brain. The long-term effects are impressive. Several studies show that people who exercise are less likely to suffer memory problems, and some animal studies even suggest that physical exercise can prompt the growth of new stem cells.
Perhaps the most important aspect of resolving to have the best brain ever this year, is vowing to exercise it often. Puzzles, riddles, games and other mental exercises that keep the mind active and challenged can prevent cognitive decline, and the right type of intense brain training exercises can actually make you smarter.
LearningRx Warren is one of over 70 centers across the nation specializing in this type of intense brain training. Personal trainers use fast-paced, game-like exercises to quickly improve cognitive skills like attention, memory, logic and reasoning, auditory and visual processing and processing speed. A recent study showed adults who went through LearningRx brain training improved brain function and gained an average of 11.4 IQ points. While at-home mental exercise programs are generally not intense enough to produce that type of gain, if you push your brain with tough mental challenges, it can make a difference.
So as you ponder your New Year’s Resolutions, remember your brain, and resolve to treat it well. The brain’s amazing ability to grow and change throughout life means instead of growing old, the brain can simply grow – if we continue to challenge it through training and exercise, and nurture it with quality nutrition, sleep, exercise and friendships.
If you would like more information about brain training or would like to subscribe to a free monthly e-Newsletter full of more brain research, brain-boosting recipes and fun games, contact us at 908-22-BRAIN or visit our website at

Diet affects brain health, study finds Oregon researchers say those who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables fare better as they age

A new study by Oregon researchers suggests that all those holiday treats, backed up by year-round junk food, might be going to your head, and not in a good way.
Research by scientists at Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University has found that older people whose diets are big on unhealthy, fatty foods do worse on mental acuity tests and have more brain shrinkage than those with healthy diets. Older people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables and the healthy oils found in fish were sharper and had less brain shrinkage.
The study is getting attention because it’s the first to measure the effect of diet on brain size and function by directly measuring nutrient levels in the blood and by imaging brains using an MRI. Previous studies relied on people filling out food questionnaires that are subject to memory lapse and inaccuracies.
“This is the first time that we’ve actually been able to show that the brain is protected by a good diet,” said Maret Traber, a nutritionist at OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute and a co-author of the study. “I think that’s outstanding.”
A paper describing the research was published this week in the journal Neurology, published by the American Academy of Neurology. The lead author is OHSU’s Gene Bowman, a naturopathic doctor, neurology professor and brain researcher.
The human brain normally shrinks with age as mental agility also drops. But the new study suggests that what you eat could either accelerate or slow that process.
What the researchers found is that people with high levels of vitamins B, C, D and E and the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish had better cognitive ability than others, especially those with high levels of transfats.
Transfats are often found in baked and fried foods, margarine and fast foods, although many snack food manufacturers have recently begun to eliminate transfat from their products.
Traber said one of the findings that was most disturbing was that older people with high levels of transfats in their blood actually had measurably smaller brains than those with healthy diets.
“That’s the scary part,” she said. “What you eat actually does matter.”
The study looked at a group of 104 Oregonians with an average age of 87 with no special risk factors for problems with memory or mental acuity. They were tested for 30 different nutrient biomarkers in their blood, and 42 of the participants also had MRI brain scans.
The participants were taken from a larger group of almost 300 people participating in the Oregon Brain Aging Study, which was begun in 1989 using men and women age 65 and older at that time.
In some ways the results aren’t surprising, given that the same kind of diet that seems to protect the brain has long been known to benefit the heart and prevent other diseases.
But knowing that a good diet also helps the brain is important as more people in developed countries are living longer.
“There a phenomenal number of epidemiological studies that say people who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables have less chronic disease,” Traber said. “I like to say it’s exactly what your mother told you to do.”
But even people who get their vitamins and fish oil in pill form will benefit, Traber said. The study just looked at what was in people’s blood, not how it got there, and Traber said taking vitamins orally has the advantage of telling you just how much you are getting.
In a commentary published in the same issue of the journal, two other researchers said the use of blood assays to determine dietary effect on the brain holds promise. If results are confirmed in a larger and more ethnically diverse group of older adults, the value of other nutrients could be investigated, said Christy Tangney of Rush University Medical Center and Nikolaos Scarmeas of Columbia University.
“Moreover, additional biomarkers for food group and food subgroups might be explored,” they said, including beneficial nutrients found in red wine, olive oil and citrus fruits.
The study is being published just as many people are looking back at a holiday season where they might not have seen the healthiest food on their plates.
For those folks, Traber said the results provide yet another incentive to turning over a new leaf, especially if that leaf is attached to a vegetable.
“It comes out at such a good time,” she said. “Right now is when everybody is worrying about the sweets and treats they ate during the holidays, and here’s what they can do to get healthier.”

Nuts improve mood, brain function, prevent cognitive decline

ISLAMABAD: Nuts, especially walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts, combined with the potent polyphenol resveratrol team, together improve mood and protect the aging brain, thus helping to maintain memory and cognition. Researchers reporting in the New England Journal of Medicine have found that nuts consumed over a period of years not only help with weight management issues, but also can reduce systemic inflammation to improve spirits and prevent cognitive decline.
Resveratrol has long been associated with brain health. The Journal of Pineal Research reports that resveratrol demonstrates anti-aging properties in the brain necessary for energy production and optimal brain function. Combining these two natural agents together as part of your healthy diet can improve mood, help retain memories and preserve youthful thought patterns.
Researchers determined to validate the health-promoting capacity of nuts provided test participants with a diet of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts for a period of 12 weeks. The volunteers for this study were sex and age-matched individuals given a control diet, and were compared to a group not receiving the nut mixture. All participants exhibited symptoms of metabolic syndrome, increasing risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, mood disorders and loss of cognition.
Individuals receiving the nuts had increased levels of serotonin, which will help a person feel better and potentially more satisfied and less likely to suffer from depression and poor mood. Additionally, the nut control group demonstrated reduced inflammatory markers from the high polyphenol content of the nuts. This is an important finding, as individuals exhibiting the signs of metabolic syndrome experience the effects of systemic inflammation leading to accelerated brain aging and cognitive decline.
Mitochondria are the tiny metabolic engines that are responsible for powering each of our trillion or so cells throughout the body. Over time, mitochondria begin to experience loss of function, and cellular decline and aging of the cell begin. Mitochondrial regulation is controlled in large part by the ’longevity’ gene known as Sirt1. Calorie restriction and potent natural nutrients such as resveratrol are known to alter expression of the Sirt1 gene. Researchers have demonstrated that resveratrol is able to restore neural mitochondria function by reviving Sirt1 gene expression; resveratrol provides "a potent anti-aging effect within the brain."
The human brain is a highly metabolic organ, demanding 20% of the total oxygen supply for the body. As such, it is also susceptible to the effects of oxidative stress and free radical damage that cause brain inflammation and advanced signs of aging. Natural nutrients such as resveratrol (25 - 50 mg per day) that cross the blood-brain barrier and foundation monounsaturated fats supplied by most nuts (1 to 2 ounces each day) and seeds protect the brain from damage and dramatically lower the risk of memory loss and cognitive decline.

Obesity-Induced Brain Changes May Be Reason Weight Control Is So Hard

The biggest obstacle to the successful treatment of obesity is the tendency to regain weight lost through diet and exercise, and evidence is increasing that this could be due to physiological causes. Recently, an Australian study reported that after large weight loss, appetite-regulating hormones appear to reset to levels that increase appetite.

Now a new study reported online on 27 December in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, offers further evidence. Senior author Dr. Michael W. Schwartz, professor of medicine at the University of Washington, and colleagues, report how rodents and humans with diet-induced obesity have structural changes in an area of the brain that regulates weight control.

The hypothalamus is a small, pearl-sized area of the brain that controls a large number of body functions, including body weight, which is regulated by a complex set of interactions between hormones and neurons or brain cells. There is a growing belief among scientists that these interactions, in most obese people, "conspire" to prevent permanent weight loss, and the underlying mechanisms are increasingly becoming the object of intense investigation by neuroendocrinologists.

Schwartz told the press:

"To explain a biologically elevated body weight 'set-point', investigators in the field have speculated about the existence of fundamental changes to brain neurocircuits that control energy balance. Our findings are the first to offer direct evidence of such a structural change, and they include evidence in humans as well as in mice and rats."

Schwartz and colleagues looked at what high-fat diets did to the brains of mice and rats engineered to become obese on such diets.

They found that quite early in their lives, the rodents developed lasting brain injuries in a specific part of the hypothalamus (the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus). Using brain scans, they found similar injuries in the same area of the brain of obese humans:

"Consistent with these data in rodents, we found evidence of increased gliosis in the mediobasal hypothalamus of obese humans, as assessed by MRI," they write.

Schwartz, who holds the Robert H. Williams Endowed Chair in Medicine in the Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Nutrition, pointed out that these findings do not prove a cause and effect: that is they can't say for sure that the brain injury is the reason the body appears to defend a higher body weight, that has yet to be proved, but:

"... this amounts to solid evidence of a change affecting the key hypothalamic area for body weight control with the potential to explain the problem," he added.

In another study in the same issue of the journal, a second team of researchers, led by senior author Dr Jeffrey Flier, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, reports finding that turnover of nerve cells in the hypothalamus of mice is inhibited by obesity, adding further weight to the argument that physiology, rather than lapsing back to old eating habits, could be the reason for weight regain following a period of successful weight loss in obese people.

Decades after ending in ‘disappointment,’ Guatemalan study of infant brains inspires Canadian follow up

In the 1970s, researchers tried to boost the brain power of hundreds of poor children in Guatemala with a porridge-like drink called atole. They were disappointed to discover that, after taking the daily dose of protein, some for up to eight years, there was only a modest impact.
It was a very different story 25 years later, when one of those scientists, Reynaldo Martorell, and a new team tracked down many of the adults who had participated as children. The atole, they found, had made a dramatic difference after all, but only for the volunteers who had been toddlers and babies when they began drinking it every day.
That follow-up study is now a model for a new, federally-funded Canadian program called Saving Brains that will direct $10-million to researchers who want to assess the long-term impact of interventions in early childhood. The aim is to find effective ways to encourage healthy brain development, because smarter kids have a better chance of breaking the cycle of poverty.
More than 200 million children in developing countries have their cognitive development limited by disease, malnutrition, birth complications and a lack of nurturing and stimulation, says Karlee Silver, who leads Grand Challenges Canada’s Saving Brains initiative.
Grand Challenges Canada is an independent not-for-profit organization launched earlier this year using federal funds. It works in a consortium with Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Two dozen research proposals for the Saving Brains program have made the short list and of those, 10 or 12 will likely get funded.
The initial study in Guatemala was done by the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama. The original hypothesis was that protein supplementation would improve mental development.
“There was quite a bit of disappointment that by the end of the study, in 1977. The effects were modest at best,” says Dr. Martorell.
But the extra protein had made a difference in the children’s growth, especially in the head circumference of the youngsters who were under two. That’s why Dr. Martorell suspected it might have had a long-term impact on their brains.
“I began to wonder what happened to those kids.”
When he and his colleagues went back to Guatemala to find out, they discovered that the children who were under the age of 3 when they started drinking the atole every day had benefitted after all. They had stayed in school longer and, once they entered the work force, earned on average 46 per cent more in wages than the children who were older than 3 when they started consuming the warm gruel every day. This suggested there was a window during the first three years of life during which extra dietary protein can encourage healthy brain development, says Dr. Martorell.
Now at Emory University in Atlanta, Dr. Martorell has acted as adviser to the Saving Brains initiative and was in Ottawa recently to talk to the researchers who are applying for funding.
He described how to track down adults who took part in research programs as children. In Guatemala, the scientists hired the same local supervisors who had helped in the original study. They were able to obtain economic data from 60 per cent of the 2,392 children who had been enrolled in the initial study. They published their findings in 2008 in the medical journal Lancet.
There is already compelling evidence that the best time for interventions to encourage healthy brain development is when a baby is in the womb, or during the first few years of life.
But the follow-up studies to be funded by the Saving Brains initiative may identify narrow windows during these early years in which particular interventions are most effective, says Dr. Martorell.
Researchers have proposed looking at whether treating infections has an impact on brain development, and if programs that encourage mothers to nurture and stimulate their babies and young children can lead to significant long-term gains.
Dr. Martorell says he is glad he followed up on his original hunch about the long-term benefits of atole.
“Without the follow-up, that study would been largely forgotten,” he says.

Singing for the brain to help with dementia

appeal: Amanda Marriott , left and and Beverley Page-Banks Alzheimers Society who are appealing for volunteers ahead of the launch of Singing for the Brain which will start next year

appeal: Amanda Marriott , left and and Beverley Page-Banks Alzheimers Society who are appealing for volunteers ahead of the launch of  Singing for the Brain  which will start next year
A charity is appealing for volunteers to help at singing sessions which helps people with Alzheimer’s Disease.
The Alzheimer’s Society has secured money from Lancashire County Council to fund the pilot project in Preston.
It will be the first time ‘Singing for the Brain’ sessions have been held in the county but the scheme has proved to be successful elsewhere in the country.
Singing can provide a way for people with dementia, along with their carers, to express themselves and socialise with others in a fun and supportive group.
And the charity said, whereas memories are hard to retrieve, music is especially easy to recall and the activities build on the well-known preserved memory for song and music in the brain.
Beverley Page-Banks, Alzheimer’s Society branch manager, said: “Volunteers are vital in all aspects of our support to people with dementia and their families.
“Singing for the Brain is a unique opportunity to really make a difference.”
The pilot will run for 10 weeks from January 23 and will be held in the Fulwood area.
The sessions will be held in the afternoons and the charity is looking for volunteers who can commit to helping at all 10 sessions.
Roles include helping with refreshments, meeting and greeting the participants, helping with activities, chatting to people, setting up and clearing up after the session.
If the pilot is a success, the charity is hoping to roll out more groups across Lancashire in 2012.
Sam McKenna, Alzheimer’s Society’s Lancashire Volunteering Officer, said: “There are a variety of opportunities for volunteers to get involved in the new Singing for the Brain group and we’d urge anyone thinking about their New Year’s resolution to consider volunteering, and get in touch.”
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or any other type of dementia.
There are 750,000 people with dementia in the UK with numbers set to rise to more than 1 million by 2021. This will soar to 1.7 million by 2050.
To volunteer or for more information, contact Sam McKenna on 01772 718 177 or e mail

Shrinking brains and 'silent strokes' studied

Shrinking brains and 'silent strokes' studied
New findings in Alzheimer's disease support longstanding notions of what doctors have preached for years. The studies look at associations, not causes, but they further scientists' pursuit of preventing the fatal brain disease.
It's no secret that healthy diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and rich in vitamins found in fruits and vegetables is good for your overall health and longevity.
In a study released this week in the journal Neurology, scientists associate these fish-rich diets and foods with high levels of vitamins B, C, D, and E nutrients with increased cognitive performance and decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, or "brain shrinkage."
People who consume diets high in trans fats, primarily found in fast foods, fried and frozen foods, were more likely to have brain shrinkage and lower scores on the thinking and memory tests than people with diets low in trans fats, the study found.
This is the first study using nutrient biomarkers in the blood to look at the effect of diet on memory, thinking skills and brain volume, researchers said. Similar diet studies in the past primarily depended on participants' memory recall and questionnaires.
“These results need to be confirmed, but obviously it is very exciting to think that people could potentially stop their brains from shrinking and keep them sharp by adjusting their diet,” said study author Gene Bowman, assistant professor of neurology at the Oregon Health and Science University, in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.
Researchers say diet is just one of many factors that must be taken into consideration when talking about memory loss. People have different genetic tendencies for disease risk, therefore more multigenerational and multicultural studies need to be conducted.
“The assumption is that when you lead a healthy lifestyle, which includes proper nutrition, exercise, and social engagement, you’re maximizing your chance of reduced cardiovascular risk factors, which then maximize your opportunities for delaying Alzheimer’s or dementia,” said Maria Carrillo, senior director of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Whether that translates into delaying Alzheimer’s, we actually don’t know,” added Carrillo.
In a different study, supported by the National Institutes of Health, new research links "silent strokes," or small spots of dead brain cells, to memory loss in the elderly.
The study found silent strokes in roughly one out of four older adults. The affected adults scored somewhat worse on memory tests than those without silent strokes.
Researchers found this was true whether or not people had a small hippocampus, which is the main memory center of the brain.
"Given that conditions like Alzheimer’s disease are defined mainly by memory problems, our results may lead to further insight into what causes symptoms and the development of new interventions for prevention," study author Adam M. Brickman said in a statement. Brickman works for the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It is the only cause of death in the top 10 in America without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression.
"Since silent strokes and the volume of the hippocampus appeared to be associated with memory loss separately in our study, our results also support stroke prevention as a means for staving off memory problems,” said Brickman.

Trans Fats-Brain Damage Link Suggested By New Study On Nutrient Levels

Fast Food Brain Damage
It seems like there's a new study relating nutrition and brain development every week. Sometimes, health experts tell us to eat grilled tuna, high in omega-3s, to ward off Alzheimer's disease -- and then, a new report on mercury levels reveals just how risky tuna can be for brain health. Clinical studies that have tried to administer certain nutrients to promote better neurological health have almost always failed. The haziness of all this data makes it hard to place your faith in any one diet.
Oregon Health & Science University's Dr. Gene Bowman has a theory about the source of the confusion. He thinks that the reason past studies have failed to produce satisfactory results is that they're getting their information from the wrong place. Most studies on long-term nutrition and health rely on dietary surveys, which ask studies' participants to remember everything they've eaten over the past few weeks. That's a tall order when you’re talking to people at risk for -- or even in the early stages of -- dementia.
"People with advanced age have more problems remembering what they've eaten," Bowman told The Huffington Post.
But Bowman thinks he has a better way to do things. Instead of asking people what they've eaten over the past few weeks, he looks at nutrient levels in their blood and finds out for himself.
It's not 100 percent foolproof, and it works better for some nutrients than others, but Bowman has published several studies that have demonstrated that blood levels of many nutrients are well correlated with a subject's diet over a period of about a year.
He said the model could be adapted to suit studies of any number of nutrition-related diseases, which all currently rely on dietary studies. But in his own neurological research, he's focused on nutrients that are known to be found at relatively high levels in spinal fluid and brain tissue.
"If the nutrients don't get into the brain, then it's a harder case to prove," he explained. "Maybe if some nutrients are damaging or improving the blood-brain barrier, without actually getting into the brain, that could have an impact on brain development ... but basically, we focus on nutrients that we've found at high levels in the brain itself, like vitamin C."
And this past week, for the first time, he released the first big findings produced by this new method. His latest study, "Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging," published in the Dec. 28 issue of Neurology, found some striking patterns relating what people eat to how their brains function.
Two of his positive findings have already attracted substantial notice. Bowman found that people with high plasma levels of B vitamins and vitamins D, E and C had more total brain volume and better overall cognitive functioning. Additionally, people with higher levels of marine Omega-3 fatty acids running through their bloodstreams were found to have better executive function.
Bowman was quick to note that the study was conducted using data from just 100 people, all elderly, all living in Oregon, and all Caucasian. And he stated these positive trends were relatively minor.
Another trend isolated in the study, though, was not minor. Bowman said that the most striking correlation found in the study was that people with high levels of trans fats in their blood had significantly worse cognitive performance and less total brain volume. In other words, the study indicated that eating foods high in trans fats -- mostly junk food, like processed pastries and fatty red meats –- may cause brain damage.
The pattern was so striking that Bowman said it was worth taking seriously despite the size of the study.
"It's clear that trans fats are bad -- both for your heart and now, we see, for your brain," Bowman said. "So I would recommend that people stay away from all trans fats. If you aren't sure whether something has them, just look at the ingredients; if there's vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated anything... just put it down. That’s the big message here."
It's a good thing, then, that the tide has turned against trans fats in recent years. Places as far flung as New York and Switzerland have banned restaurants from featuring menu items with high levels of trans fats, and many major companies have tried to remove them from products. Though, as a HuffPost Healthy Living post from earlier this month demonstrated, there are still a lot of foods out there that contain trans fats.
The other patterns were also solid enough that scientists have said they warrant further study.
The eventual hope is that this sort of research will allow neurologists to develop individualized dietary therapies for better brain functioning. But the next step will be to find out whether or not blood nutrient levels today can predict brain development down the line. If they can –- if say, Bowman and his colleagues can determine that ingesting more vitamin E can help support the structural integrity of the hippocampus, the seat of memory -– then someday, a visit to a neurologist may be a lot like a visit to a dietician.

Brain Detox Formula Helps Eliminate Years of Built-Up Neurotoxins that Dull Memory, and Slow the Mind

Brain Research Labs has created a clinically tested brain pill called Procera AVH® that helps boost brainpower, and help fight and neutralize free radicals and toxins in the brain.

Brain Research Labs has created a clinically tested brain pill called Procera AVH® that helps boost brainpower, and help fight and neutralize free radicals and toxins in the brain.
People often blame forgetfulness and mental sluggishness on getting old, when, it actually may be due to a toxic brain overload.
There's no denying that we live in a toxic stew. We share the planet with more than 82,000 chemicals, and the list grows longer every year. More than 1,000 new chemicals, many unregulated, are added to the toxic broth every year.
They are in the food we eat, the water we drink and bathe in, and in the air we breathe. They are found in plastic and canned food containers, home and garden pesticides, dry-cleaned clothes, detergents, gasoline, and countless other products.
They're also found in our bodies.
Health experts estimate that the average human being is hosting more than 700 chemical contaminants. Scientists use the term, body burden to quantify the total amount of chemicals present in the body. And the news is not good.
In Bill Moyers' PBS series Chemical Body Burden: Trade Secret, Michael McCally, MD, PhD, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine warned, "Current 'normal' body burdens of dioxins and several other well-studied organochlorines in humans are at or near the range at which toxic effects occur in laboratory animals."
While research shows that sauna sweating, exercise, and select diets can diminish some fat-stored contaminants, health experts have long wondered, how does one effectively clean a "dirty" brain?
What's in Your Brain?
The brain experts at Brain Research Labs in Laguna Beach, California think they have the answer. The same people credited with measuring the information-processing speed of the brain have also created a clinically tested brain pill called Procera AVH® that helps boost brainpower, and help fight and neutralize free radicals and toxins in the brain.
The formula was also shown to help improve mental clarity, sweep away brain fog and mental sluggishness, improve memory, concentration, and even put users in a better mood.
Lead formulator, Joshua Reynolds, author, researcher, and preeminent brain expert, along with his fellow scientists at Brain Research, have created Procera AVH®, a unique formula that helps fight free radicals and unhealthy inflammatory conditions by boosting the brain's antioxidant defenses, while increasing the circulation of blood in the brain helping to flush out the toxic residues. 
"Procera AVH also helps oxygenate tired sluggish brain cells that have been "depressed" by the heavy burden of neurotoxins. Users report a noticeable change in mental alertness, energy and focus," says Reynolds.
Spring Cleaning for Aging Brains
"It's more than just bouts of brain fog, forgetfulness and mental fatigue," says Reynolds.
"Toxic brain overload could be behind a seemingly unrelated spate of conditions like unintended weight gain, poor sleep, constant fatigue, low energy, general aches and pains, hormone, blood sugar and mood swings, irritability, even a weakened immune system."
"Can you imagine not cleaning your home for 50 years? Imagine how much filth and dirt would build up?," says Reynolds.
"Now, imagine what your brain - that three pound glob of ganglionic fat and nerve tissue looks like after 50 years of life?"
Procera's well-studied ingredients, acetyl-l-carnitine, vinpocetine and huperzine provide a broad-spectrum antioxidant defense to help protect your brain against these four highly toxic free radicals.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

It has been lodged in his brain for more than eighty years- even longer than his teeth.
A bullet has remained in the head of a Russian man, who was accidentally shot in the head as a three year old, for 82 years, with apparently no ill effects.
The shooting victim went on to become an award winning engineer, even winning the Soviet State Prize for his accomplishments. 
Metalhead: A bullet has remained in the head of a Russian man, who was accidentally shot in the head as a three year old, for 82 years, with apparently no ill effects
Metalhead: A bullet has remained in the head of a Russian man, who was accidentally shot in the head as a three year old, for 82 years, with apparently no ill effects
Fittingly the man spent much of his career overseeing the construction of ballistic missiles.

When the boy was shot with a pistol by his brother the bullet entered beneath his nose and never left. It eventually came to rest in his foramen magnum, the opening at the base of the skull through which the spinal cord passes. 

Doctors did not take the bullet out at the time for fear of causing more damage, according to a case report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The three-year-old blacked out for hours, but incredibly, made a complete recovery.

Dr. Richard O'Brien, a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians told msnbc: 'The body has an amazing ability to 'get used to' things.'

'Also, children have a great ability to overcome hardship and rebuild themselves when injured.'
The bullet entered beneath his nose and never left. It eventually came to rest in his foramen magnum, the opening at the base of the skull through which the spinal cord passes.
Stowaway: The bullet entered beneath his nose and never left. It eventually came to rest in his foramen magnum, the opening at the base of the skull through which the spinal cord passes
Eighty-two years later, doctors treating the man for coronary heart disease at a Russian cardiology center spotted the renegade bullet on his records and carried out a cat scan.
They were astonished to see it had left no sign of neural damage. The octogenarian did have a scar under his nose, but his curve- shaped, Roman nose prevents it from being seen, msnbc reported.

Dr. David Ross, an emergency physician at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado told the New England Journal of Medicine: 'High-speed missiles, like a bullet, can cause great damage and usually do.
'However, because they are high-speed, they generate a lot of heat. That heat usually means the missile is sterile -- meaning it is unlikely to serve as a basis for infection if it stays in one place for many years. So if it did not cause much damage, which it apparently didn't, it was unlikely to cause him ongoing troubles.'

Doctors at the Russian cardiology center decided there was no point taking the bullet out.

Older people’s brain does not always slow down with age

Both children and the elderly have slower response times when they have to make quick decisions. (Reuters)
 Older brainsContrary to what many people think the brain functioning of elderly people does not always slow down with age and in certain situations they show similar response times as younger adults, researchers say.
Both children and the elderly have slower response times when they have to make quick decisions in some settings.
But recent research suggests that much of that slower response is a conscious choice to emphasize accuracy over speed.
In fact, healthy older people can be trained to respond faster in some decision-making tasks without hurting their accuracy – meaning their cognitive skills in this area are not so different from younger adults.
“Many people think that it is just natural for older people’s brains to slow down as they age, but we’re finding that isn’t always true,” said Roger Ratcliff, professor of psychology at Ohio State University and co-author of the study.

Brain's Connective Cells Are Much More Than Glue

Glia cells also regulate learning and memory, new TAU research finds
Glia cells, named for the Greek word for "glue," hold the brain's neurons together and protect the cells that determine our thoughts and behaviors, but scientists have long puzzled over their prominence in the activities of the brain dedicated to learning and memory. Now Tel Aviv University researchers say that glia cells are central to the brain's plasticity — how the brain adapts, learns, and stores information.
According to Ph.D. student Maurizio De Pittà of TAU's Schools of Physics and Astronomy and Electrical Engineering, glia cells do much more than hold the brain together. A mechanism within the glia cells also sorts information for learning purposes, De Pittà says. "Glia cells are like the brain's supervisors. By regulating the synapses, they control the transfer of information between neurons, affecting how the brain processes information and learns."
De Pittà's research, led by his TAU supervisor Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob, along with Vladislav Volman of The Salk Institute and the University of California at San Diego and Hugues Berry of the Université de Lyon in France, has developed the first computer model that incorporates the influence of glia cells on synaptic information transfer. Detailed in the journal PLoS Computational Biology, the model can also be implemented in technologies based on brain networks such as microchips and computer software, Prof. Ben-Jacob says, and aid in research on brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy.
Regulating the brain's "social network"
The brain is constituted of two main types of cells: neurons and glia. Neurons fire off signals that dictate how we think and behave, using synapses to pass along the message from one neuron to another, explains De Pittà. Scientists theorize that memory and learning are dictated by synaptic activity because they are "plastic," with the ability to adapt to different stimuli.
But Ben-Jacob and colleagues suspected that glia cells were even more central to how the brain works. Glia cells are abundant in the brain's hippocampus and the cortex, the two parts of the brain that have the most control over the brain's ability to process information, learn and memorize. In fact, for every neuron cell, there are two to five glia cells. Taking into account previous experimental data, the researchers were able to build a model that could resolve the puzzle.
The brain is like a social network, says Prof. Ben-Jacob. Messages may originate with the neurons, which use the synapses as their delivery system, but the glia serve as an overall moderator, regulating which messages are sent on and when. These cells can either prompt the transfer of information, or slow activity if the synapses are becoming overactive. This makes the glia cells the guardians of our learning and memory processes, he notes, orchestrating the transmission of information for optimal brain function.
New brain-inspired technologies and therapies
The team's findings could have important implications for a number of brain disorders. Almost all neurodegenerative diseases are glia-related pathologies, Prof. Ben-Jacob notes. In epileptic seizures, for example, the neurons' activity at one brain location propagates and overtakes the normal activity at other locations. This can happen when the glia cells fail to properly regulate synaptic transmission. Alternatively, when brain activity is low, glia cells boost transmissions of information, keeping the connections between neurons "alive."
The model provides a "new view" of how the brain functions. While the study was in press, two experimental works appeared that supported the model's predictions. "A growing number of scientists are starting to recognize the fact that you need the glia to perform tasks that neurons alone can't accomplish in an efficient way," says De Pittà. The model will provide a new tool to begin revising the theories of computational neuroscience and lead to more realistic brain-inspired algorithms and microchips, which are designed to mimic neuronal networks.

This is your brain behind the wheel

Research engineer Fred Tam prepares a volunteer while demonstrating the driving simulator set up with an fMRI at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. - Research engineer Fred Tam prepares a volunteer while demonstrating the driving simulator set up with an fMRI at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. | Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail
It feels weird driving while lying flat on your back. That’s why Toronto neuroscientist Tom Schweizer offers practice sessions to the volunteers in his brain-imaging study. Each person gets time to become accustomed to the driving simulator, which has been engineered to fit inside a brain scanner. The small steering wheel is at the participants’ waist, the accelerator and brake pedals at their feet, and their visual field is filled with the images of driving down a road and turning left at a busy intersection.
Dr. Schweizer wants to know what parts of the brain we use when we perform complex driving manoeuvres and whether this changes as we age. His goal is to develop an objective test to help assess whether older drivers, as well as people who have had a stroke or another brain injury, can still safely operate a car or truck. The idea isn’t to install functional magnetic resonance imagers at the motor-vehicle-licence offices, says Dr. Schweizer, who works at St. Michael’s Hospital. He wants to develop a series of short, cognitive tests to assess whether someone’s brain is up to the job of driving.
“Once we have figured out the brain structures involved in different aspects of driving, we can go in with cognitive testing that targets those areas,” he says.
As people age, they have a greater chance of developing vision problems or other health conditions that might compromise driving safely. The brain also changes. The frontal cortex, which makes up about 60 per cent of the brain, atrophies, or shrinks, Dr. Schweizer says. Reaction times can slow, and it can become more difficult to multitask.
His imaging study is part of a growing scientific effort to learn how to accommodate and perhaps even retrain older drivers, and to find a better way to determine when it is time for them to give up their keys.
There are now more than 3.25 million licensed drivers aged 65 or older in Canada, about 14 per cent of the total driving population. The proportion of seniors behind the wheel is expected to grow as baby boomers get older.
There is no consensus on how to best test older drivers. Once drivers in Ontario turn 80 they have to complete a vision and knowledge test and do a group education session every two years. But the protocol is different in other provinces and there is little agreement on how to identify and regulate people who may be a risk to themselves or others on the road, says Brenda Vrkljan, an occupational therapist and associate professor in the school of rehabilitation science at McMaster University in Hamilton. She is also part of Candrive, a national initiative to improve the safety of older drivers and to develop an effective method, involving a combination of approaches, for assessing their abilities.
It is a difficult issue. Being able to drive is key to the independence and quality of life of many seniors. It would be exciting, Dr. Vrkljan says, if neuroscience could offer some insight.
Dr. Schweizer does the brain imaging at Sunnybrook Hospital, where he collaborates with Dr. Simon Graham. University of Toronto graduate student Karen Kan worked for two years on a driving simulator that would function in a brain scanner.
So far, Dr. Schweizer has scanned the brains of 16 drivers under the age of 30 while they used the simulator. It’s not perfect imitation of the driving experience, but it is as good as it gets, he says.
In one simulation, they drive down a straight road, which is pretty easy on the brain.
But in another, they have to turn left at a busy intersection, which requires looking at the traffic lights, oncoming cars and pedestrians – and timing the turn.
“We are seeing it requires a pretty large network to do the more complicated manoeuvre. That seems intuitive, but the exact areas that are coming online have not been shown before,” Dr. Schweizer says.
The next step is to see whether the pattern of activity is different in the brains of drivers who are 70 or older. It may be that more of the brain is activated, or that different areas are recruited. Understanding how the aging brain adapts to the demands of driving will help in the development of new cognitive tests, which would supplement existing assessment tools, such as vision tests or on-road driving tests.
Other researchers are also using driving simulators to better understand older drivers. At Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., Michel Bédard, wants to see whether their performance on various cognitive tests is linked to how they well they avoid virtual collisions. His study could lead to new approaches to help older drivers improve their skills.
“There may be quite a bit of potential for retraining,” he says.

Nutrient Patterns Tied to Brain Volume, Cognitive Function

December 29, 2011 — A study of relatively healthy elderly adults found that those with diets rich in several vitamins or omega-3 fatty acids had better cognitive function and less brain atrophy associated with Alzheimer's disease than their peers with diets less abundant in these nutrients.
The study identified 3 distinct nutrient biomarker patterns (NBPs) in blood that are related to cognitive performance and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures of brain aging.
Two NBPs were associated with more favorable cognitive scores and more total brain volume on MRI. One was high in plasma B vitamins (B1, B2, B6, folate, and B12), as well as vitamins C, D, and E, and the other was high in plasma marine omega-3 fatty acids.
A third NBP characterized by a high trans fat pattern was consistently associated with less favorable cognitive function and less total cerebral brain volume.
The study was published online December 28 in Neurology.
The Oregon Brain Aging Study
First author Gene Bowman, ND, MPH, from the Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, and colleagues studied a cross-sectional sample of 104 elderly adults (62% women; mean age, 87 years) participating in the Oregon Brain Aging Study.
Comorbidities and vascular risk factors for cognitive decline were low in the cohort, with the exception of hypertension, which was present in 44% of the participants. The mean Mini-Mental State Examination was 27, and no patient had a Clinical Dementia Rating higher than 0.5.
All of the participants completed a battery of neuropsychological tests of memory and thinking skills. A subset of 42 patients underwent MRI scans to measure brain volume. Fasting plasma samples were used to determine the levels of various nutrients present in blood. "To our knowledge, this is the first study to apply principal component analysis to biological markers of diet," the researchers note.
Overall, the participants had good nutritional status, although 7% were deficient in vitamin B12 (<200 pg/mL) and 25% were deficient in vitamin D (<20 ng/mL).
The investigators looked at 30 different nutrient biomarkers. They report that the NBP characterized by higher vitamin BCDE levels was associated with better global cognitive function, particularly in domains of executive, attention, and visuospatial function.
Conversely, the NBP characterized by higher plasma trans fat scores was associated with worse cognitive function overall (memory, attention, language, processing speed, and global).
The researchers report that each standard deviation (SD) increase in the vitamin BCDE score was associated with a 0.28 SD increase in global cognitive score, and each 1 SD increase in the trans fat score was associated with a 0.30 SD decrease in global cognitive score.
Patients with an NBP characterized by higher marine omega-3 fatty acid levels had better executive function.
Adjustment for age, sex, education, apolipoprotein E4, hypertension, and depression did not attenuate these relationships, the authors write.
Blood Nutrient Patterns Affect MRI Patterns
On brain MRI, the researchers found that patients with higher plasma BCDE scores had more total cerebral brain volume, and those with higher trans fat scores had less total cerebral brain volume.
Those with higher omega-3 scores had less white matter hyperintensities, but this relationship was attenuated after adjusting for depression and hypertension.
In an exploratory analysis, the researchers found that NBPs accounted for a significant amount of variation in both brain volume and cognitive scores. Age, sex, education years, APOE4 carrier status, depression, and hypertension together explained 46% of the variation in the global cognitive z score, and adding the NBPs explained an additional 17%.
In regard to total brain volume on MRI, the covariates explained 40% of the total variation, and the NBPs explained an additional 37% of the variation. The covariates explained 52% of the variation in white matter hyperintensities, and the NBPs explained an additional 9%.
Dr. Bowman and colleagues say additional studies in different populations are needed to confirm these findings.
Patterns Predictive of Cognitive Change
The coauthors of a linked commentary say, "If the relationships between cognitive scores and MRI measures with [NBPs] are confirmed in a larger, more ethnically diverse sample of older adults, this approach should be exploited to extract [NBPs] predictive of cognitive change.
"Moreover, additional biomarkers for food group and food subgroups might be explored — i.e., reservatrol for wine, hydroxytyrosol for olive oil and nuts, or proline betaine for citrus fruits," suggest commentators Christy C. Tangney, PhD, from Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, and Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, from Columbia University, New York City.
A strength of the study, they say, is the investigators' use of plasma nutrient levels, rather than self-reported dietary patterns, which gets around recall errors and biases that can occur when individuals report their usual diets, particularly in elders who may be cognitively challenged.
Potential limitations of this bioassay strategy for estimating diet is cost and a higher patient burden, they add, such as time and fasting, if necessary.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Aging, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Portland VA Medical Center. A complete list of author disclosures can be found with the original articles.