Latest Research News

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).

Disrupted sleep in one's 50s, 60s raises Alzheimer's risk

A study involving 95 healthy older adults found that adults reporting a decline in sleep quality in their 40s and 50s had more amyloid-beta in their brains later in life, while those reporting poorer sleep in their 50s and 60s had more tau tangles. Those with high levels of tau protein were more likely to lack the synchronized brain waves during deep NREM sleep that are associated with a good night's sleep, and the more tau protein, the less synchronized these brain waves were.

Brain scans of 9,772 people aged 44 to 79, who were enrolled in the UK Biobank study, have revealed that smoking, high blood pressure, high pulse pressure, diabetes, and high BMI — but not high cholesterol — were all linked to greater brain shrinkage, less

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.

Ten minutes of light exercise boosts memory

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep.

People with OSA are known to suffer memory problems and also have higher rates of depression.

A new study connects the two by finding that people with untreated OSA had problems recalling specific details about their lives. Previous research has established that persistent depression is associated with overly general autobiographical memories, where people don't remember many specific details of life events.

Poor sleep has been associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease, and this has been thought to be in part because the protein amyloid beta increases with sleep deprivation. A new study explains more.

Experiments with mice show that sleep deprivation also rapidly increases levels of the other key Alzheimer’s disease protein, tau tangles.

The work built on findings that tau is high in older people who sleep poorly, and that, when people are kept awake all night, their tau levels rise by about 50%.

Poor sleep has been associated with Alzheimer's disease risk, but a new study suggests a specific aspect of sleep is important.

The study, involving 119 older adults (60+), of whom 80% were cognitively normal and the remainder very mildly impaired, found that decreased slow-wave sleep coincided with higher levels of tau in the brain and a higher tau-to-amyloid ratio in the cerebrospinal fluid.

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.

A British study using data from 475,397 participants has shown that, on average, stronger people performed better across every test of brain functioning used. Tests looked at reaction speed, reasoning, visuospatial memory,

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.

A new MRI technique has revealed that it is the structural integrity of the

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.

An extensive review of research looking at the effects of a single bout of exercise has concluded that:

  • the most consistent behavioral effects of acute exercise are
    • improved executive function
    • enhanced mood
    • decreased stress levels
  • widespread brain areas and brain systems are activated

A study involving 35 adults with MCI found that those who exercised four times a week over a six-month period increased their volume of gray matter.

A study involving 18 volunteers who performed a simple orientation discrimination while on a stationary bicycle, has found that low-intensity exercise boosted activation in the visual cortex, compared with activation levels when at rest or during high-intensity exercise.

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 involving 50 younger adults (18-35; average age 24) has found that those with a higher BMI performed significantly worse on a computerised memory test called the “Treasure Hunt Task”.

The task involved moving food items around complex scenes (e.g., a desert with palm trees), hiding them in various locations, and indicating afterward where and when they had hidden them. The test was designed to disentangle object, location, and temporal order memory, and the ability to integrate those separate bits of information.

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 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.

A sleep study involving 28 participants had them follow a controlled sleep/wake schedule for three weeks before staying in a sleep laboratory for 4.5 days, during which time they experienced a cycle of sleep deprivation and recovery in the absence of seasonal cues such as natural light, time information and social interaction. The same participants went through this entire procedure several times over some 18 months.

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

A study involving 100 healthy older adults (aged 60-80) has found that those with higher levels of physical activity showed more variable spontaneous brain activity in certain brain regions (including the precuneus,

A large, five-year study challenges the idea that omega-3 fatty acids can slow age-related cognitive decline. The study, involving 4,000 older adults, was part of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), which established that daily high doses of certain antioxidants and minerals can help slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. However, a follow-up study found the addition of omega-3 fatty acids to the AREDS formula made no difference.

A large, two-year study challenges the evidence that regular exercise helps prevent age-related cognitive decline.

The study involved 1,635 older adults (70-89) who were enrolled in the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study. They were sedentary adults who were at risk for mobility disability but able to walk about a quarter mile. Participants had no significant cognitive impairment (as measured by the MMSE) at the beginning of the study. Around 90% (1476) made it to the end of the study, and were included in the analysis.

This sounds like pseudoscience, but it appears in Journal of Neuroscience, so … Weirdly, a rat study has found that sleeping on the side (the most common posture for humans and other animals) is the best position for efficiently removing waste from the brain.

Blood pressure data from 378 participants in the Framingham Heart Study has revealed that those who had high systolic blood pressure when they were 50-60 years old scored worse on a

A six-month pilot study involving 101 healthy older adults (65+), who were randomly put into one of three exercise interventions or a no-change control, has found that the exercise groups all showed significant improvement in visual-spatial processing and attention, with more improvement in visual-spatial processing occurring in those with higher levels of exercise.

A review and a large study have recently added to the growing evidence that type 2 diabetes is not only a risk factor for Alzheimer's, but is also linked to poorer cognitive function and faster age-related cognitive decline. The amount of this also seems to be related to glucose control in a dose-dependent manner.

Three recent studies point to the importance of cardiorespiratory fitness for older adults wanting to prevent cognitive decline.

Several recent studies add to the evidence that physical fitness boosts cognitive processing in children.

There are five healthy behaviors that appear to significantly reduce the risk of dementia,

Data from the population-based Finnish Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Incidence of Dementia (CAIDE) study has revealed that healthy dietary choices in midlife may prevent dementia in later years. Out of 2,000 participants, 1,449 took part in the follow-up. The participants were 39 to 64 years old at baseline and 65 to 75 years old at follow-up.

Those who ate the healthiest diet at around age 50 had an almost 90% lower risk of dementia in a 14-year follow-up study than those whose diet was the least healthy.

A mouse study has found that mice (genetically engineered for Alzheimer’s) who were sleep deprived for eight weeks, not only showed significant cognitive impairment, but also showed a significant increase in the amount of tau protein that became phosphorylated and formed tangles. The other main characteristic of Alzheimer’s, amyloid-beta plaques, was not affected.

The findings are consistent with growing evidence of a link between sleep disturbance and Alzheimer’s, and suggests that chronic sleep disturbance accelerates Alzheimer’s pathology, and should be treated.

Because sleep is so important for memory and learning (and gathering evidence suggests sleep problems may play a significant role in age-related cognitive impairment), I thought I’d make quick note of a recent review bringing together all research on the immediate effects of alcohol on the sleep of healthy individuals.

Another study looking into the urban-nature effect issue takes a different tack than those I’ve previously reported on, that look at the attention-refreshing benefits of natural environments.

Chronic use of alcohol and marijuana during youth has been associated with poorer neural and cognitive function, which appears to continue into adulthood. A new study looking specifically at white-matter changes provides more support for the idea that adolescent brains may be at particular risk from the damage that substance abuse can bring.

Organophosphate pesticides are the most widely used insecticides in the world; they are also (according to WHO), one of the most hazardous pesticides to vertebrate animals. While the toxic effects of high levels of organophosphates are well established, the effects of long-term low-level exposure are still controversial.

Problems with myelin — demyelination (seen most dramatically in MS, but also in other forms of neurodegeneration, including normal aging and depression); failure to develop sufficient myelin (in children and adolescents) — are increasingly being implicated in a wide range of disorders. A new animal study adds to that evidence by showing that social isolation brings about both depression and loss of myelin.

In a large Mayo Clinic study, self-reported diet was found to be significantly associated with the risk of seniors developing mild cognitive impairment or dementia over a four-year period.

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