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Archive for the ‘Memory’ Category

HealthDay (4/8, Dotinga, http://tinyurl.com/MCI-test) reported that  Doug Scharre, MD  has developed a brief memory test to help doctors determine whether someone is suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which can signal the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  In a study in the journal Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders, neurologist Dr. Douglas Scharre of Ohio State University Medical Center reports that the test detected 80 percent of people with mild thinking and memory problems. In a press release, Scharre said the test could help people get earlier care for conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.  “It’s a recurring problem,” he said. “People don’t come in early enough for a diagnosis, or families generally resist making the appointment because they don’t want confirmation of their worst fears.  Whatever the reason, it’s unfortunate because the drugs we’re using now work better the earlier they are started.  “The test can be taken by hand, which Scharre said may help people who aren’t comfortable with technology like computers.   He’s making the tests, which take 15 minutes to complete, available free to health workers at www.sagetest.osu.edu

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The Wall Street Journal (4/21, Naik, http://tinyurl.com/videogames-memory) reports a  large new study casts doubt on whether videogame based programs can deliver what they promise.  The hallmark of a good brain-training program isn’t whether it simply improves a person’s ability to do the specific mental tasks in the training, but whether it also boosts other cognitive skills.  The latest study, published in the journal Nature, found no evidence for such improvement.  “Our brain-training groups got better at the tests they practiced, and the more they practiced, the better they got.  But there was no translation to any improvements in general cognitive function,” said study co-author Jessica Grahn, a scientist at the Medical and Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, England.   In North America, the market for such programs increased to $265 million in 2009 from $225 million a year earlier, according to SharpBrains, a market-research firm in San Francisco.  Some $95 million of last year’s revenue came from consumers who buy commercially available brain-training programs.  The rest came from professional users, including schools, insurance companies and retirement communities.  The six-week online study involved 11,430 healthy participants, all viewers of a BBC television science program. They were first tested for their existing baseline cognitive abilities, and then randomly assigned to one of three groups, each with a different set of tasks.  One group took part in online games aimed at improving skills linked to general intelligence.   A second test group did exercises to boost short-term memory, attention and mathematical and visual-spatial skills—functions typically targeted by commercial brain-training programs.   A third “control group” was asked to browse the Internet and seek out answers to general knowledge questions.  The conclusion: Those who did the brain-training exercises improved in the specific tasks that they practiced.  However, their improvement was generally no greater than the gains made by the control group surfing the Internet.  And none of the groups showed evidence of improvement in cognitive skills that weren’t specifically used in their tasks.

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HealthDay (3/22, Preidt, http://tinyurl.com/MCI-Alzheimer) reported that “memory and thinking skills can deteriorate quickly in people with mild cognitive impairment, the stage before Alzheimer’s disease.”  The study involved 1,158 people, who averaged 79 years old. The group included 149 people with Alzheimer’s disease, 395 with mild cognitive impairment and 614 with no thinking or memory problems.  The scores of people with mild cognitive impairment declined twice as fast each year as did scores of those with no memory problems. The scores for people with Alzheimer’s declined four times as fast as those of participants with no cognitive problems.  The results are in the March 23 issue of Neurology.  “The changes in rate of decline occur as the brain atrophies due to the disease, first mainly in the hippocampus during the initial symptomatic stage, referred to as mild cognitive impairment, then in the temporal, parietal and frontal cortex during the dementing illness phase of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. David S. Knopman, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

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According to a December article in the Journal of the American Medical Association  (JAMA. 2009;302(24):2663-2670. http://tinyurl.com/ginko-dementiaGinkgo Biloba did not slow the rates of global or domain-specific cognitive decline in older adults.  The herbal product Ginkgo Biloba is taken frequently with the intention of improving cognitive health in aging.  However, evidence from adequately powered clinical trials is lacking regarding its effect on long-term cognitive functioning.   The Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of 3069 community-dwelling participants aged 72 to 96 years, was conducted in 6 academic medical centers in the United States between 2000 and 2008.  Twice-daily dose of 120-mg extract of G biloba or identical-appearing placebo were given.  Rates of change over time in the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination and in neuropsychological domains of memory, attention, visual-spatial construction, language, and executive functions were evaluated .  Annual rates of decline in the scores did not differ between G biloba and placebo groups in any domains, including memory, attention, visuospatial abilities, language and executive functions.  Compared with placebo, the use of G biloba, 120 mg twice daily, did not result in less cognitive decline in older adults with normal cognition or with mild cognitive impairment.

 

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The UK’s Telegraph(http://tinyurl.com/grape-juice-and-memory 12/9) reports that scientists from the University of Cincinnati’s psychiatry department carried out a study which involved 12 people with early memory loss drinking pure 100 per cent Concord grape juice for 12 weeks.   The results showed an improvement the longer the trial went on in the half of the group who were drinking the juice.  Experts believe this proves the brain-boosting powers of antioxidants contained in the skin and juice of the grapes.  A simple, easy-to-incorporate dietary intervention that could improve or protect memory function, such as drinking Concord grape juice, may be beneficial for the ageing population.   A 2006 US study conducted at Vanderbilt University revealed drinking fruit and vegetable juices frequently could significantly cut the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  US researchers followed almost 2,000 people for up to 10 years – providing a powerful set of results. They found the risk was 76 per cent lower for those who drank juice more than three times a week, compared with those who drank it less than once-a-week.   Alzheimer’s is linked to the accumulation of clumps of beta-amyloid protein in the brain.  There is a suggestion this process may be controlled by the chemical hydrogen peroxide.

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low-carb-dietThe UK’s Daily Mail (10/21, Macrae) reports that, according to a study published in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration, “high-protein diets” in mice “may shrink the brain,” thereby “raising the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in later life.” Researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine examined “the effect of various diets, including one high in protein and low in carbohydrate on the brains of mice.” They found that “the brains of mice fed Atkins-like diets, rich in protein and low in carbohydrate, were five percent lighter than those of other creatures,” and had underdeveloped “areas key to memory.”

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internet_explorer_logoHealthDay (10/19, Gardner) reported, “Researchers found that older adults who started browsing the Web experienced improved brain function after only a few days.” In a study presented at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting, researchers asked “24 neurologically normal adults, aged 55 to 78…to surf the Internet while hooked up to an MRI machine. Before the study began, half the participants had used the Internet daily, and the other half had little experience with it.” The researchers said that “at baseline, those with prior Internet experience showed a much greater extent of brain activation,” but “after at-home practice…those who had just been introduced to the Internet were catching up to those who were old hands.”  The Los Angeles Times (10/19, Healey) “Booster Shots” blog explained that the Internet-“naïve” subjects “had used many of the regions of brain associated with judgment, visual and spatial perception, and higher-order reasoning to perform their faux-search task. But a scan of their brains found that after two weeks of honing their search-skills, the newbies used those brain regions as well as several others when performing the faux-search task.” WebMD (10/19, Warner) also covered the story.

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The UK’s Daily Mail (8/28) reports that researchers at Australia’s University of Queensland, after discovering “a chemical released by a mown lawn makes people feel happy and relaxed,” have formulated “a perfume which ‘smells like a freshly-cut lawn’ which relieves stress and help boost memory.” The perfume, called Serenascent, appears to affect “the emotional and memory parts of the brain known as the amygdala and the hippocampus,” the two areas of the brain “responsible for the flight or fight response and the endocrine system, which controls the releasing of stress hormones like corticosteroids.” In experiments, the investigators “found that animals exposed to stress-buckeye psychiatry — which combines three chemicals released when green leaves are cut — escaped damage to the hippocampus.” Next month, the perfume “will go into production…and sell for around £4 a bottle.”

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sleepThe New York Times (6/23, D6, Bakalar) reports in Vital Signs that, according to a study published June 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, rapid eye movement sleep (REM), “the kind that includes dreams,” may facilitate problem solving. For the study, researchers from the University of California-San Diego “gave 77 volunteers word-association tests under three before-and-after conditions: spending a day without a nap, napping without REM sleep, and napping with REM sleep.” They found that “a nap that included REM sleep resulted in nearly a 40 percent improvement over the pre-nap performance.” Study author Sara C. Mednick, PhD, stated that dreams “incorporate strange ideas that you would never have put together in waking life. In REM sleep, it becomes more likely that ideas might come together in a solution.”

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namMedscape (6/18, Jeffrey) reported that, according to a study presented at a Parkinson’s disease conference and published online June 9 in The Lancet Neurology, “patients with dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease (PDD) or dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) may benefit from treatment with memantine,” a medication that is “already approved for use in moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease.” Researchers from the Norwegian Center for Movement Disorders at Stavanger University Hospital conducted a “parallel-group, 24-week randomized and placebo-controlled pilot study that included 75 patients with PDD and DLB from four centers in Sweden, Norway, and the United Kingdom.” Patients “were randomized to receive either 20 mg per day of memantine or placebo.” At study end, the team found “a significant difference between groups…on the CGIC, with a mean difference of 0.7 points (95 percent CI, 0.04 – 1.39; P = .03).”

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