Aging

Older people less apt to recognize they've made a mistake

  • A small study has found that older adults (average age 68) are less able to recognize when they made errors.

A small study comparing 38 younger adults (average age 22) and 39 older adults (average age 68) found that the older adults were less able to recognize when they made errors.

The simple test involved looking away from a circle that appeared in a box on one side of a computer screen. It’s hard not to look at something that’s just appeared, and each time the participant glanced at the circle before shifting their gaze, they were asked whether they had made an error. They were then asked to rate how sure they were of their answer.

The younger participants were correct in acknowledging when they had erred 75% of the time, while the older test-takers were correct only 63% of the time. Moreover, when they judged themselves correct in error, the younger participants were far less certain of their judgment than the older ones.

This was confirmed by their eye dilation. Our pupils dilate when something unexpected occurs, and when we think we’ve made a mistake. Younger adults' pupils dilated when they thought they erred, and dilated to a smaller extent when they didn’t recognize their error. Older adults, on the other hand, showed no dilation at all when they committed an error they didn’t recognize.

Research has recently discovered the existence of "error neurons" — specific neurons in the human medial frontal cortex that signal the detection of errors. Perhaps future research will find that these neurons are, in some way, vulnerable to loss during the aging process. But this is pure speculation, and there are other possible causes for older adults' decreasing ability to recognize errors.

The important thing, on a practical level, is to be aware of this danger. I suspect, for most people, this will go a long way to improving the situation.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-08/uoi-sop080318.php

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-12/cmc-np120418.php

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Does mental stimulation help fight age-related cognitive decline?

  • A large study found that mentally stimulating activities in mid-life and later were linked to a lower risk or delay of MCI.
  • A very large study found that the more regularly older adults played puzzles such as crosswords and Sudoku, the better they performed on tasks assessing attention, reasoning and memory.
  • A review of 32 studies has concluded that mind-body exercises such as tai chi do help improve cognition in older adults.

Can computer use, crafts and games slow or prevent age-related memory loss?

A study involving 2,000 healthy older adults (average age 78) found that mentally stimulating activities were linked to a lower risk or delay of MCI, and that the timing and number of these activities may also play a role.

During the study, 532 participants developed MCI.

Using a computer in middle-age (50-65) was associated with a 48% lower risk of MCI, while using a computer in later life was associated with a 30% lower risk, and using a computer in both middle-age and later life was associated with a 37% lower risk.

Engaging in social activities, like going to movies or going out with friends, or playing games, like doing crosswords or playing cards, in both middle-age and later life were associated with a 20% lower risk of developing MCI.

Craft activities were associated with a 42% lower risk, but only in later life.

Those who engaged in two activities were 28% less likely to develop MCI than those who took part in no activities, while those who took part in three activities were 45% less likely, those with four activities 56% percent less likely and those with five activities were 43% less likely.

It should be noted that activities in middle-age were assessed by participants’ memory many years later.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-07/aaon-ccu071019.php

Regular crosswords & sudoku linked to sharper brain in later life

Data from the PROTECT online platform, involving 19,000 healthy older adults (50-96), found that the more regularly older adults played puzzles such as crosswords and Sudoku, the better they performed on tasks assessing attention, reasoning and memory.

In some areas the improvement was quite dramatic, for example, on measures of problem-solving, people who regularly do these puzzles performed equivalent to an average of eight years younger compared to those who don't.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-05/uoe-rca051419.php

Mind-body exercises improve cognitive function in older adults

A meta-analysis of 32 randomized controlled trials with 3,624 older adults with or without cognitive impairment has concluded that mind-body exercises, especially tai chi and dance mind-body exercise, help improve global cognition, cognitive flexibility, working memory, verbal fluency, and learning in older adults.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-12/w-mem121718.php

Reference: 

Krell-Roesch, J., Syrjanen, J. A., Vassilaki, M., Machulda, M. M., Mielke, M. M., Knopman, D. S., … Geda, Y. E. (2019). Quantity and quality of mental activities and the risk of incident mild cognitive impairment. Neurology, 93(6), e548. https://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000007897

Brooker, H., Wesnes, K. A., Ballard, C., Hampshire, A., Aarsland, D., Khan, Z., … Corbett, A. (2019). The relationship between the frequency of number-puzzle use and baseline cognitive function in a large online sample of adults aged 50 and over. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 34(7), 932–940. https://doi.org/10.1002/gps.5085

Brooker, H., Wesnes, K. A., Ballard, C., Hampshire, A., Aarsland, D., Khan, Z., … Corbett, A. (2019). An online investigation of the relationship between the frequency of word puzzle use and cognitive function in a large sample of older adults. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 34(7), 921–931. https://doi.org/10.1002/gps.5033

Wu, C., Yi, Q., Zheng, X., Cui, S., Chen, B., Lu, L., & Tang, C. (2019). Effects of Mind-Body Exercises on Cognitive Function in Older Adults: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 67(4), 749–758. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.15714

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Education & IQ linked to later cognitive decline & dementia

  • A large, long-running study found those with a college education maintained good cognition substantially longer than those who didn't complete high school.
  • A very large online study found that higher levels of education were strong predictors of better cognitive performance across all ages (15-60 years), but this was more true for types of cognition such as reasoning and less true for processing speed.
  • A large study of older men found that their cognitive ability at age 20 was a stronger predictor of cognitive function later in life than other factors, such as higher education, occupational complexity or engaging in late-life intellectual activities.

Americans with a college education live longer without dementia and Alzheimer's

Data from the large, long-running U.S. Health and Retirement Study found that healthy cognition characterized most of the people with at least a college education into their late 80s, while those who didn’t complete high school had good cognition up until their 70s.

The study found that those who had at least a college education lived a much shorter time with dementia than those with less than a high school education: an average of 10 months for men and 19 months for women, compared to 2.57 years (men) and 4.12 years (women).

The data suggests that those who graduated high school can expect to live (on average) at least 70% of their remaining life after 65 with good cogntion, compared to more than 80% for those with a college education, and less than 50% for those who didn't finish high school.

The analysis was based on a sample of 10,374 older adults (65+; average age 74) in 2000 and 9,995 in 2010.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-04/uosc-awa041618.php

https://academic.oup.com/psychsocgerontology/article/73/suppl_1/S20/4971564 (open access)

More education linked to better cognitive functioning later in life

Data from around 196,000 subscribers to Lumosity online brain-training games found that higher levels of education were strong predictors of better cognitive performance across the 15- to 60-year-old age range of their study participants, and appear to boost performance more in areas such as reasoning than in terms of processing speed.

Differences in performance were small for test subjects with a bachelor's degree compared to those with a high school diploma, and moderate for those with doctorates compared to those with only some high school education.

But people from lower educational backgrounds learned novel tasks nearly as well as those from higher ones.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-08/l-mel082117.php

http://www.futurity.org/higher-education-cognitive-peak-1523712/

Youthful cognitive ability strongly predicts mental capacity later in life

Data from more than 1,000 men participating in the Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging revealed that their cognitive ability at age 20 was a stronger predictor of cognitive function later in life than other factors, such as higher education, occupational complexity or engaging in late-life intellectual activities.

All of the men, now in their mid-50s to mid-60s, took the Armed Forces Qualification Test at an average age of 20. The same test of general cognitive ability (GCA) was given in late midlife, plus assessments in seven cognitive domains.

GCA at age 20 accounted for 40% of the variance in the same measure at age 62, and approximately 10% of the variance in each of the seven cognitive domains. Lifetime education, complexity of job and engagement in intellectual activities each accounted for less than 1% of variance at average age 62.

The findings suggest that the impact of education, occupational complexity and engagement in cognitive activities on later life cognitive function simply reflects earlier cognitive ability.

The researchers speculated that the role of education in increasing GCA takes place primarily during childhood and adolescence when there is still substantial brain development.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-01/uoc--yca011819.php

Reference: 

[4484] Crimmins, E. M., Saito Y., Kim J. Ki, Zhang Y. S., Sasson I., & Hayward M. D.
(2018).  Educational Differences in the Prevalence of Dementia and Life Expectancy with Dementia: Changes from 2000 to 2010.
The Journals of Gerontology: Series B. 73(suppl_1), S20 - S28.

Guerra-Carrillo, B., Katovich, K., & Bunge, S. A. (2017). Does higher education hone cognitive functioning and learning efficacy? Findings from a large and diverse sample. PLOS ONE, 12(8), e0182276. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0182276

[4485] Kremen, W. S., Beck A., Elman J. A., Gustavson D. E., Reynolds C. A., Tu X. M., et al.
(2019).  Influence of young adult cognitive ability and additional education on later-life cognition.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 116(6), 2021.

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Low social engagement linked to cognitive decline & dementia risk

  • A very large, very long-running British study found that higher social contact at age 60 was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing dementia.
  • A 3-year study of older adults found that lower social engagement was only associated with greater cognitive decline in those with higher amyloid-beta levels.

Socially active 60-year-olds face lower dementia risk

Data from the Whitehall II study, tracking 10,228 participants for 30 years, found that increased social contact at age 60 is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing dementia later in life. Someone who saw friends almost daily at age 60 was 12% less likely to develop dementia than someone who only saw one or two friends every few months.

While previous studies have found a link between social contact and dementia risk, the long follow-up in the present study strengthens the evidence that social engagement could protect people from dementia (rather than precursors of dementia bringing about a decline in social engagement).

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-08/ucl-sa6073119.php

Low social engagement plus high amyloid linked to cognitive decline

A three-year study of 217 healthy older adults (63-89) enrolled in the Harvard Aging Brain Study, has found that higher amyloid-beta levels in combination with lower social engagement was associated with greater cognitive decline over three years. Lower social engagement wasn’t associated with cognitive decline in those with a lower amyloid-beta burden.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-06/bawh-scl062819.php

Reference: 

Sommerlad, A., Sabia, S., Singh-Manoux, A., Lewis, G., & Livingston, G. (2019). Association of social contact with dementia and cognition: 28-year follow-up of the Whitehall II cohort study. PLOS Medicine, 16(8), e1002862. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002862

Biddle, K et al, "Social Engagement and Amyloid-b-Related Cognitive Decline in Cognitively Normal Older Adults." American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jagp.2019.05.005

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Stress in midlife affects cognitive decline later in life

  • A large long-running study found that stressful life experiences (but not traumatic events) during middle-age were associated with greater memory decline in later life — but only for women.
  • A large long-running study found that middle-aged adults with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol had poorer cognition than those with average cortisol levels, and this was also associated with greater brain atrophy.
  • A study found that older adults (65-95) who responded to stressful events with more negative emotions showed greater fluctuations in cognitive performance.

Stressors in middle age linked to cognitive decline in older women

Data from some 900 older adults has linked stressful life experiences among middle-aged women, but not men, to greater memory decline in later life.

Previous research has found that the effect of age on the stress response is three times greater in women than in men.

Having a greater number of stressful life experiences over the last year in midlife in women was linked to a greater decline in recalling words later and recognizing those words. There was no association, however, to traumatic events — suggesting that ongoing stress has more of a negative effect on cognition.

The data came from 909 Baltimore residents participating in the National Institute of Mental Health Epidemiologic Catchment Area study, begun in 1981. Participants were an average age of 47 during their mid-life check-in in the 90s.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-08/jhm-im080219.php

https://www.futurity.org/mid-life-stress-women-memory-alzheimers-2127072-2/

Stress hormone linked to impaired memory, smaller brain in middle age

Data from 2,231 participants (mean age 48.5) in the Framingham Heart Study has found that adults in their 40s and 50s with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol had poorer cognition than those with average cortisol levels. Higher cortisol was also associated with smaller brain volumes.

There was no association between higher cortisol level and APOE genotype.

Age, sex, smoking and body mass index were taken into account in the analysis.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-10/uoth-sci102418.php

Response to daily stressors could affect brain health in older adults

A study following 111 older adults (65-95) for 2½ years, has found that those who responded to stressful events with more negative emotions and reported a more dour mood in general showed greater fluctuations in their performance on cognitive tests.

Cognitive testing occurred every six months, for six days over a two-week period.

Stressful events and emotional reactions were assessed by self-report.

Interestingly, there were age differences. For the oldest participants (late 70s and older), being more reactive to stressors than usual contributed to worse cognitive performance, but those in their late 60s to mid-70s actually did better on the test if they reported more stressors.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-11/osu-rtd111918.php

Reference: 

Munro, C. A., Wennberg, A. M., Bienko, N., Eaton, W. W., Lyketsos, C. G., & Spira, A. P. (2019). Stressful life events and cognitive decline: Sex differences in the Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area Follow-Up Study. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 34(7), 1008–1017. https://doi.org/10.1002/gps.5102

[4483] Echouffo-Tcheugui, J. B., Conner S. C., Himali J. J., Maillard P., DeCarli C. S., Beiser A. S., et al.
(2018).  Circulating cortisol and cognitive and structural brain measures.
Neurology. 91(21), e1961.

[4482] Stawski, R., Cerino E., Witzel D., & MacDonald S\.
(Submitted).  Daily Stress Processes as Contributors to and Targets for Promoting Cognitive Health in Later Life.
Psychosomatic Medicine. 81(1), 81 - 89.

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Visual impairment associated with a decline in cognitive function

  • A large study indicates that visual impairment can play a role in age-related cognitive decline.

A study involving more than 2,500 older adults (65+) found that the rate of worsening vision was associated with the rate of cognitive decline. More importantly, vision has a stronger influence on cognition than the reverse.

The study finding suggests maintaining good vision through the prevention and treatment of vision disorders in old persons may be a strategy to lessen age-related cognitive changes.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-06/jn-via062718.php

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Hearing loss linked to increased cognitive decline & dementia risk

  • A very large Taiwanese study found that adults with hearing loss had a higher dementia risk, and this was particularly so for those aged 45-64.
  • A very large Japanese study found that a dramatically greater proportion of older adults (65+) with hearing loss reported memory loss, compared to much fewer of those without hearing loss.
  • A very large study found that older adults (50+) who used hearing aids for hearing loss showed better performance on tests of working memory and attention compared with those who didn't use hearing aids for their hearing loss.
  • A large long-running study found that, while hearing impairment was associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults (mean age 73.5), the impact might be lessened by higher education.
  • A very large 8-year study found that hearing loss was associated with higher risk of subjective cognitive decline in older men (62+).
  • A very small study suggests that cognitive problems in some older adults may derive directly from hearing impairments, and may be fixed by addressing this.
  • A large, long-running study found that eating a healthy diet was associated with a lower risk of acquired hearing loss in women.

Hearing loss linked to increased dementia risk

A Taiwanese study involving 16,270 adults, of whom half had newly diagnosed hearing loss, found that those with hearing loss had a higher risk of dementia, particularly among those aged 45-64. Six comorbidities (cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression, alcohol-related illnesses, and head injury) were also significantly associated with a higher dementia risk.

Among the study participants, 1,868 developed dementia during the 13-year study period.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-07/jn-hld072919.php

Hearing loss linked to limitations, distress, and memory loss in older people

Data from the 2016 Comprehensive Survey of Living Conditions of Japan has found that, of those 137,723 respondents who were aged 65 or older, about 9% reported hearing loss. There were substantial differences between those with hearing loss and those without:

  • 28.9% of those with hearing loss reported limitations in outdoor activities such as shopping or travel, vs. 9.5% of those without hearing loss
  • 39.7% of those with hearing loss reported psychological distress, vs 19.3%
  • 37.7% of those with hearing loss reported memory loss, vs only 5.2% of those without hearing loss.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-07/uot-hlt071919.php

Wearing hearing aid may help protect brain in later life

Data from the PROTECT online study of 25,000 older adults (50+) has found that those who wear a hearing aid for age-related hearing problems maintain better brain function over time than those who do not.

Participants undertook annual cognitive tests over two years. After that time, the group who wore hearing aids performed better in measures assessing working memory and aspects of attention than those who did not.

The findings were presented at the 2019 annual Alzheimer's Association International Conference, Los Angeles.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-07/uoe-wha071219.php

Hearing loss linked to greater cognitive decline but education mitigates effect

A large, long-running study, involving 1,164 older adults (mean age 73.5), found that, while hearing impairment was associated with accelerated cognitive decline, the impact might be lessened by higher education.

The study found that almost half of the participants (49.8%) had mild hearing impairment, with 16.8% suffering moderate-to-severe hearing loss. Those with more serious hearing impairment showed worse performance on the MMSE and the Trail-Making Test, Part B. Hearing impairment was also associated with greater decline in performance over time, for both the mildly and more severely impaired.

However, the association of mild hearing impairment with rate of cognitive decline was found only among those without a college education, while moderate-to-severe hearing impairment was associated with steeper MMSE decline regardless of education level.

Somewhat surprisingly, degree of social engagement did not affect the association of hearing impairment with cognitive decline.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-02/uoc--wac021219.php

Male hearing loss linked to cognitive decline

An eight-year longitudinal study among 10,107 older men (62+) found that hearing loss was associated with higher risk of subjective cognitive decline.

Compared with men with no hearing loss, the relative risk of cognitive decline was 30% higher among men with mild hearing loss, 42% higher among men with moderate hearing loss, and 54% higher among men with severe hearing loss but who did not use hearing aids. While those who did use hearing aids showed a reduced risk of cognitive decline (37%), this wasn’t statistically significant (not enough men in these groups, I assume).

The men were all health professionals. Subjective cognitive function was assessed using a six-item questionnaire, which was administered three times, at four-yearly intervals.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-01/bawh-etc012819.php

Signs of memory problems could be symptoms of hearing loss instead

A very small study found that 11 out of 20 participants being evaluated for cognitive concerns had some form of mild to severe hearing loss, but only 4 of them used hearing aids. A quarter of the participants didn’t show any signs of memory loss due to a brain disorder. It’s suggested that, for some, cognitive problems may derive directly from hearing impairments, and can be fixed by addressing this issue.

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition in older adults, which is experienced by 50% of individuals over the age of 65 and 90% of people over the age of 80. It takes an average of 10 years before people seek treatment and fewer than 25% of those who need hearing aids will buy them.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-01/bcfg-som011819.php

Healthy diet may lower risk of hearing loss in women

A large, long-running study (the Nurses' Health Study II ) has found that eating a healthy diet was associated with a lower risk of acquired hearing loss in women. Women whose diets most closely resembled the AMED or DASH dietary patterns had an approximately 30% lower risk of moderate or worse hearing loss, compared with women whose diets resembled these dietary patterns the least.

The Alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED) diet includes extra virgin olive oil, grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish and moderate intake of alcohol. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is high in fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy, and low in sodium.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-05/bawh-hdm051118.php

Reference: 

[4479] Liu, C-M., & Lee C. Tzu- Chi
(2019).  Association of Hearing Loss With Dementia.
JAMA Network Open. 2(7), e198112 - e198112.

Iwagami, M., Kobayashi, Y., Tsukazaki, E., Watanabe, T., Sugiyama, T., Wada, T., … Tamiya, N. (2019). Associations between self-reported hearing loss and outdoor activity limitations, psychological distress and self-reported memory loss among older people: Analysis of the 2016 Comprehensive Survey of Living Conditions in Japan. Geriatrics & Gerontology International, 19(8), 747–754. https://doi.org/10.1111/ggi.13708

Alattar, A. A., Bergstrom, J., Laughlin, G. A., Kritz-Silverstein, D., Richard, E. L., Reas, E. T., … McEvoy, L. K. (n.d.). Hearing impairment and cognitive decline in older, community-dwelling adults. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glz035

Curhan, S et al. Longitudinal study of hearing loss and subjective cognitive function decline in men. Alzheimer's & Dementia DOI: 10.1016/j.jalz.2018.11.004

Dupuis, K., Yusupov, I., Vandermorris, S., Murphy, K., Rewilak, D., Stokes, K., & Reed, M. (2019). Considering Age-Related Hearing Loss in Neuropsychological Practice: Findings from a Feasibility Study. Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue Canadienne Du Vieillissement, 38(2), 245-252. doi:10.1017/S0714980818000557

[4480] Curhan, S. G., Wang M., Eavey R. D., Stampfer M. J., & Curhan G. C.
(2018).  Adherence to Healthful Dietary Patterns Is Associated with Lower Risk of Hearing Loss in Women.
The Journal of Nutrition. 148(6), 944 - 951.

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Sleep problems linked to age-related cognitive problems

  • A very large Canadian study found that older adults with chronic insomnia performed significantly worse on cognitive tests.
  • A small study links older adults' increasing difficulties with consolidating memories to poorer synchronization of brainwaves during sleep.
  • A fruitful study shows that oxidative stress drives sleep, and that this is regulated by a specific molecule that monitors the degree of oxidative stress.

Chronic insomnia linked to memory problems

Data from 28,485 older Canadians (45+) found that those with chronic insomnia performed significantly worse on cognitive tests than those who had symptoms of insomnia without any noticable impact on their daytime functioning and those with normal sleep quality. The main type of memory affected was declarative memory (memory of concepts, events and facts).

Chronic insomnia is characterized by trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights a week for over three months with an impact on daytime functioning (mood, attention, and daytime concentration).

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-05/cu-cia051519.php

Poor brainwave syncing behind older adults failure to consolidate memories

We know that memories are consolidated during sleep, and that for some reason this consolidation becomes more difficult with age. Now a new study shows why.

To consolidate memories (move them into long-term storage), low and speedy brain waves have to sync up at exactly the right moment during sleep. These brain rhythms synchronize perfectly in young adults, but in old age, it seems, slow waves during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep are not so good at making timely contact with the speedy electrical bursts known as “spindles.”

These difficulties are thought to be due to atrophy of the gray matter in the medial frontal cortex.

The study compared the overnight memory of 20 healthy young adults to that of 32 healthy older adults (mostly in their 70s). Before going to sleep, participants learned and were then tested on 120 word sets. They were tested again in the morning. EEG results from their sleeping brains showed that in older people, the spindles consistently peaked early in the memory-consolidation cycle and missed syncing up with the slow waves.

http://www.futurity.org/memories-sleep-older-adults-1633432/

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-12/uoc--obd121417.php

Oxidative stress governs sleep

A fruitfly study has shown how oxidative stress leads to sleep. Fruitflies (and, it is believed, humans) have sleep-control neurons that act like an on-off switch: if the neurons are electrically active, the fly is asleep; when they are silent, the fly is awake. The switch is triggered, it appears, by an electrical current that flows through two ion channels, and this, it now appears, is regulated by a small molecule called NADPH.

The state of NADPH reflects the degree of oxidative stress. Sleeplessness causes oxidative stress, driving the behavior of NADPH.

I'm wildly speculating here, but is it possible that increased sleep problems often found with age are linked to a growing inability of this molecule to sensitively monitor the degree of oxidative stress, perhaps due to high levels of oxidative stress??

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-03/uoo-saa032119.php

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Air pollution substantially reduces cognitive ability in older adults

  • A very large study shows that greater exposure to air pollution was linked to poorer cognitive performance in older adults, especially men and the less educated.

A large Chinese study involving 20,000 people has found that the longer people were exposed to air pollution, the worse their cognitive performance in verbal and math tests. The effect of air pollution on verbal tests became more pronounced with age, especially for men and the less educated.

The study followed the participants from 2010 to 2014, meaning that the same individuals could be assessed as air pollution varied from one year to the next.

The findings add to previous research showing the harmful effects of air pollution on cognitive performance in children.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/27/air-pollution-causes-huge-reduction-in-intelligence-study-reveals

Reference: 

Xin Zhang, Xi Chen, Xiaobo Zhang. 2018. The impact of exposure to air pollution on cognitive performance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Sep 2018, 115 (37) 9193-9197; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1809474115

 

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Depression linked to faster cognitive decline in older adults

  • A review of 34 studies confirms depression is linked to faster cognitive decline in older adults.

A review of 34 longitudinal studies, involving 71,244 older adults, has concluded that depression is associated with greater cognitive decline.

The study included people who presented with symptoms of depression as well as those that were diagnosed as clinically depressed, but excluded any who were diagnosed with dementia at the start of study.

Previous research has found that depression is associated with an increased dementia risk.

The researchers recommend that preventative measures such as exercising, practicing mindfulness, and undertaking recommended therapeutic treatments, such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, might help protect cognitive health.

While the review included some studies into anxiety, the numbers were insufficient to draw a conclusion.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-05/uos-dsu052318.php

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