Latest Research News

A small UK study involving 28 healthy older adults (20 women with average age 70; 8 men with average age 67), has found that those with higher levels of aerobic fitness experienced fewer language failures such as 'tip-of-the-tongue' states.

The association between the frequency of tip-of-the-tongue occurrences (TOTs) and aerobic fitness levels existed even when age and vocabulary size was accounted for. Education level didn't affect TOTs, but only a few of the participants hadn't gone to university, so the study wasn't really in a position to test this out.

An Australian study involving 102 older adults (60-90) has concluded that physical fitness and arterial stiffness account for a great deal of age-related memory decline.

A long-running study involving 454 older adults who were given physical exams and cognitive tests every year for 20 years has found that those who moved more than average maintained more of their cognitive skills than people who were less active than average, even if they have brain lesions or biomarkers linked to dementia.

Exercise activates brain networks in older adults

A study involving healthy older adults (55-85) found that recall was better after a session of moderately intense exercise, and several crucial brain regions showed greater activation.

The recall task involved identifying famous names and non famous ones. The test occurred 30 minutes after the exercise session (using an exercise bike) and on a separate day after a period of rest.

Lowering blood pressure prevents worsening brain damage in elderly

Although first reported in 1816, the fact that the brain is surrounded by lymphatic vessels, which connect the brain and the immune system, was only rediscovered in 2015.

A study involving 54 older adults (55-80), who possessed at least one risk factor for a stroke, found that those with

Perivascular spaces are fluid-filled spaces around the cerebral small vessels, commonly seen on brain scans in older adults. They have been thought to be harmless, but a new study challenges this belief.

Data from 3,105 older adults (65+) who had either heart surgery or cardiac catheterization has found that those who had heart surgery didn’t experience much greater cognitive decline compared with those who had the much less invasive, catheter-based procedure.

Two years after the surgery, surgery participants showed a greater amount of decline equal to only 4.6 months of cognitive aging compared with those undergoing catheterization.

Data from more than 14,265 people older adults (51+) multiple times over a decade or more through the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study has found that people with higher “multimorbidity scores” showed much faster cognitive decline than those with lower scores, even though most of the chronic conditions included in the index had no direct relationship with brain health. The higher the score, the faster the decline.

Large study shows level of beneficial alcohol consumption much lower than thought

A UK study using data from 13,342 middle-aged and older adults (40-73) has found that having up to one standard unit of alcohol a day improved reaction time, but more than that amount harmed cognitive performance. The effect was more pronounced in older adults.

Data from over 5,000 individuals found that a measure of belly fat (waist:hip ratio) was associated with reduced cognitive function in older Irish adults (60+). Body mass index (BMI), however, was found to protect cognitive function.

BMI is a crude measure of body fat and cannot differentiate between fat and muscle — the muscle component is likely to be the protective factor.

A study involving 116 healthy older adults (65-75) has found that higher levels of several key nutrients in the blood were associated with more efficient brain connectivity and better cognitive performance. In fact, the findings suggest that the level of nutrients governs the strength of the association between functional brain network efficiency and cognitive performance.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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).

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.

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.

A study following nearly 28,000 older men for 20 years has found that regular consumption of leafy greens, dark orange and red vegetables and berry fruits, and orange juice, was associated with a lower risk of memory loss.

The study looked at 27,842 male health professionals, who were an average age of 51 in 1986, when the study began. Participants filled out questionnaires about how many servings of fruits, vegetables and other foods they had each day, at the beginning of the study and then every four years.

Specifically:

One important reason for the greater cognitive problems commonly experienced as we age, is our increasing difficulty in ignoring distracting and irrelevant information. But it may be that in some circumstances that propensity can be used to help memory.

Do older adults forget as much as they think, or is it rather that they ‘misremember’?

A small study adds to evidence that gist memory plays an important role in false memories at any age, but older adults are more susceptible to misremembering because of their greater use of gist memory.

A Finnish study involving over 1000 older adults suggests that a counselling program can prevent cognitive decline even among those with the Alzheimer’s gene.

The study involved 1,109 older adults (aged 60-77) of whom 362 were carriers of the APOE4 gene. Some of the participants received regular lifestyle counselling (general health advice), while the rest received “enhanced” lifestyle counselling, involving nutrition counselling, physical and cognitive exercises, and support in managing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Data from more than 17,000 healthy people aged 50 and over has revealed that the more regularly participants engaged with word puzzles, the better they performed on tasks assessing attention, reasoning and memory.

Study participants took part in online cognitive tests, as well as being asked how frequently they did word puzzles such as crosswords. There was a direct relationship between the frequency of word puzzle use and the speed and accuracy of performance on nine cognitive tasks.

Unplanned hospitalizations accelerate cognitive decline in older adults

Data from the Rush Memory and Aging Project has found that emergency and urgent hospitalizations are associated with an increased rate of cognitive decline in older adults.

Non-elective hospitalizations were associated with an approximately 60% acceleration in the rate of cognitive decline from before hospitalization. Elective hospitalizations, however, were not associated with acceleration in the rate of decline at all.

A Finnish study involving 338 older adults (average age 66) has found that greater muscle strength is associated with better cognitive function.

Muscle strength was measured utilising handgrip strength, three lower body exercises such as leg extension, leg flexion and leg press and two upper body exercises such as chest press and seated row.

Data from over 11,500 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) cohort has found evidence that orthostatic hypotension in middle age may increase the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia 20 years later.

Orthostatic hypotension is the name for the experience of dizziness or light-headedness on standing up. Previous research has suggested an association between orthostatic hypotension and cognitive decline in older adults.

A review of 39 studies investigating the effect of exercise on cognition in older adults (50+) confirms that physical exercise does indeed improve cognitive function in the over 50s, regardless of their cognitive status. Aerobic exercise, resistance training, multicomponent training and tai chi, all had significant effects. However, exercise sessions needed to be at least 45  minutes and moderate intensity.

Data from the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study, involving 6,467 postmenopausal women (65+) who reported some level of caffeine consumption, has found that those who consumed above average amounts of coffee had a lower risk of developing dementia.

Caffeine intake was estimated from a questionnaire. The median intake was 172 mg per day (an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains 95mg of caffeine, 8-ounces of brewed black tea contains 47mg, so slightly less than 2 cups of coffee or less than 4 cups of tea). The women were cognitively assessed annually.

A small study that fitted 29 young adults (18-31) and 31 older adults (55-82) with a device that recorded steps taken and the vigor and speed with which they were made, has found that those older adults with a higher step rate performed better on memory tasks than those who were more sedentary. There was no such effect seen among the younger adults.

A study involving 39 older adults has found that those randomly assigned to a “high-challenge” group showed improved cognitive performance and more efficient brain activity compared with those assigned to a low-challenge group, or a control group.

Data from 2,800 participants (aged 65+) in the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) study has revealed that one type of cognitive training benefits less-educated people more than it does the more-educated.

A study involving 266 people with mild cognitive impairment (aged 70+) has found that B vitamins are more effective in slowing cognitive decline when people have higher omega 3 levels.

Participants were randomly selected to receive either a B-vitamin supplement (folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12) or a placebo pill for two years. The vitamins had little to no effect for those with low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, but were very effective for those with high baseline omega-3 levels.

Growing research has implicated infections as a factor in age-related cognitive decline, but these have been cross-sectional (comparing different individuals, who will have a number of other, possibly confounding, attributes). Now a large longitudinal study provides more evidence that certain chronic viral infections could contribute to subtle cognitive deterioration in apparently healthy older adults.

Another study adds to the growing evidence that a Mediterranean diet is good for the aging brain.

A study involving 382 older adults (average age 75) followed for around five years, has found that those who don’t get enough vitamin D may experience cognitive decline at a much faster rate than people who have adequate vitamin D.

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