Latest Research News

A study involving 614 patients with type 2 diabetes (mean age 62) has found that longer duration of diabetes was associated with more brain volume loss, particularly in the gray matter. Roughly, for every 10 years of diabetes, the brain was similar to that of a non-diabetic person who was two years older.

However, the study did not confirm any association of diabetes characteristics with small vessel ischemic disease.

Type 2 diabetes greatly increases a person's risk of developing cardiovascular disease, but a new study shows that cardiovascular risk factors such as elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels differ significantly between men and women with diabetes.

The study, involving 680 diabetics, found that blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels were significantly higher in women, and women were significantly less likely to have these factors under control. Some 17% of men had control of these factors, compared to 6% of women.

A mouse study has found that introduction of oral bacteria into the bloodstream increased risk factors for atherosclerotic heart disease, including cholesterol and inflammation, suggesting that the same bacteria that cause gum disease also promotes heart disease. The findings are consistent with recent evidence that patients with gum disease are at higher risk for heart disease.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

Cognitive decline is common in those with multiple sclerosis, but not everyone is so afflicted. What governs whether an individual will suffer cognitive impairment?

A study involving 124 teenagers has found that those who were most accurate at tapping along with a metronome also showed the most consistent brain responses to a synthesized speech sound "da". The finding is consistent with previous research showing links between reading ability and beat-keeping ability, and between reading ability and the consistency of the brain's response to sound. The finding also provides more support for the benefits of music training for both language skills and auditory processing.

A large study, involving 3,690 older adults, has found that drugs with strong anticholinergic effects cause memory and cognitive impairment when taken continuously for a mere two months. Moreover, taking multiple drugs with weaker anticholinergic effects, such as many common over-the-counter digestive aids, affected cognition after 90 days’ continuous use. In both these cases, the risk of cognitive impairment doubled (approximately).

A very large genetic study has revealed that genetic differences have little effect on educational achievement. The study involved more than 125,000 people from the U.S., Australia, and 13 western European countries.

All told, genes explained about 2% of differences in educational attainment (as measured by years of schooling and college graduation), with the genetic variants with the strongest effects each explaining only 0.02% (in comparison, the gene variant with the largest effect on human height accounts for about 0.4%).

A small study involving 18 individuals with at least one mild traumatic brain injury with related sleep disturbance has shown that six weeks of morning bright light therapy resulted in a marked decrease in subjective daytime sleepiness, and improved nighttime sleep.

Sleep, because of its role in brain plasticity, is likely to be important for brain recovery, but unfortunately sleep problems are common in those with TBI.

The research was presented on June 3, in Baltimore, Md., at SLEEP 2013, the 27th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.

More than 10% of all babies are born preterm every year, and prematurity is a well-established risk factor for cognitive impairment at some level.

A new study adds to growing evidence of a link between sleep problems and Alzheimer’s. The interesting thing is that this association – between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s biomarkers — wasn’t revealed until the data was separated out according to BMI.

Family caregivers of dementia sufferers who are reluctant to use adult day care services might like to note the findings of a telephone survey. The study involved eight daily telephone interviews on consecutive days with 173 family caregivers who use an ADS on some days.

Last year, a cancer drug, Bexarotene, was touted as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. However, four independent studies have now failed to replicate the most dramatic result of the original study: a claim that the drug could clear half the amyloid plaques in a mere 72 hours.

Still, two of the studies confirmed findings that the drug reduced levels of amyloid-beta, and one showed improved cognition in mice.

The inconsistencies suggest more research is needed. The drug is now being tested in humans.

I’ve been happily generous with cinnamon on my breakfast ever since the first hints came out that cinnamon might help protect against Alzheimer’s (it’s not like it’s an ordeal to add cinnamon!). Now a new study has revealed why.

A recent report from Autistica estimates that nearly a quarter (24%) of children with autism are non-verbal or minimally verbal — problems that can persist into adulthood.

A review of over 200 published papers and more than 60 different intervention studies has now concluded that:

A recent study reveals that when we focus on searching for something, regions across the brain are pulled into the search. The study sheds light on how attention works.

In the experiments, brain activity was recorded as participants searched for people or vehicles in movie clips. Computational models showed how each of the roughly 50,000 locations near the cortex responded to each of the 935 categories of objects and actions seen in the movie clips.

Three classroom experiments have found that students who meditated before a psychology lecture scored better on a quiz that followed than students who did not meditate. Mood, relaxation, and class interest were not affected by the meditation training.

The noteworthy thing is that the meditation was very very basic — six minutes of written meditation exercises.

The effect was stronger in classes where more freshmen students were enrolled, suggesting that the greatest benefit is to those students who have most difficulty in concentrating (who are more likely to drop out).

We talk about memory for ‘events’, but how does the brain decide what an event is? How does it decide what is part of an event and what isn’t? A new study suggests that our brain uses categories it creates based on temporal relationships between people, objects, and actions — i.e., items that tend to—or tend not to—pop up near one another at specific times.

Why do we find it so hard to stay on task for long? A recent study uses a new technique to show how the task control network and the default mode network interact (and fight each other for control).

We know sleep helps consolidate memories. Now a new study sheds light on how your sleeping brain decides what’s worth keeping. The study found that when the information that makes up a memory has a high value—associated with, for example, making more money—the memory is more likely to be rehearsed and consolidated during sleep.

A new study has found that errors in perceptual decisions occurred only when there was confused sensory input, not because of any ‘noise’ or randomness in the cognitive processing. The finding, if replicated across broader contexts, will change some of our fundamental assumptions about how the brain works.

Late-life depression is associated with an increased risk for all-cause dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and, most predominantly, vascular dementia, a new study shows.

Because long-term cognitive decline can occur in some older adults after undergoing surgery, there has been some concern that exposure to anesthesia may be associated with increased dementia risk. It is therefore pleasing to report that data from the very large, long-running Mayo Clinic Study, the Rochester Epidemiology Project, has found that receiving general anesthesia for procedures after age 45 is not a risk factor for developing dementia.

Most of the (few) approved Alzheimer’s drugs are cholinesterase inhibitors — that is, they stop the breakdown of the

We know that the E4 variant of the APOE gene greatly increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but the reason is a little more mysterious. It has been thought that it makes it easier for amyloid plaques to form because it produces a protein that binds to amyloid beta.

I’ve talked before about the evidence linking diabetes to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but now a new study suggests that elevated blood sugar levels increase Alzheimer’s risk even in those without diabetes, even in those without ‘pre-diabetes’.

Evidence is accumulating that age-related cognitive decline is rooted in three related factors: processing speed slows down (because of myelin degradation); the ability to inhibit distractions becomes impaired;

While it’s well-established that chronic stress has all sorts of harmful effects, including on memory and cognition, the judgment on brief bouts of acute stress has been more equivocal. There is a certain amount of evidence that brief amounts of stress can be stimulating rather than harmful, and perhaps even necessary if we are to reach our full potential.

A new study claims to provide ‘some of the strongest evidence yet’ for the benefits of gesturing to help students learn.

The study involved 184 children aged 7-10, of whom half were shown videos of an instructor teaching math problems using only speech, while the rest were shown videos of the instructor teaching the same problems using both speech and gestures. The problem involved mathematical equivalence (i.e., 4+5+7=__+7), which is known to be critical to later algebraic learning.

A study has found that brain regions responsible for making decisions continue to be active even when the conscious brain is distracted with a different task.

A study involving nearly 6,000 African American older adults has found those with a specific gene variant have almost double the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease compared with African Americans who lack the variant. The size of the effect is comparable to that of the ‘Alzheimer’s gene’, APOE-e4.

A study involving 67 college football players has found that a protein biomarker for traumatic brain injury (S100B) was present in varying degrees in the blood samples of all the players after every game, even though none of them suffered a concussion. This demonstrates that even the most routine hits have some impact on the blood-brain barrier and possibly the brain itself.

As many of you will know, I like nature-improves-mind stories. A new twist comes from a small Scottish study, in which participants were fitted up with a mobile EEG monitor that enabled their brainwaves to be recorded as they walked for 25 minutes through one of three different urban settings: an urban shopping street, a path through green space, or a street in a busy commercial district.

A humanoid robot has been designed, and shows promise, for teaching joint attention to children with ASD. Robots are particularly appealing to children, and even more so to those with ASD.

We say so blithely that children learn by copying, but a recent study comparing autistic children and normally-developing ones shows there’s more to this than is obvious.

A study involving 97 infants, of whom 56 were at high risk of an autism spectrum disorder, has found that the high-risk infants later found to have ASD (only 16 of the 56) were slower to orient or shift their gaze (by approximately 50 milliseconds) than both high-risk-negative and low-risk infants.

Analysis of data from 418 older adults (70+) has found that carriers of the ‘Alzheimer’s gene’, APOEe4, were 58% more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment compared to non-carriers. However, ε4 carriers with

A new finding points to brain reorganization, rather than brain size, as the driver in primate brain evolution. Data from 17 anthropoid primate species (including humans) across 40 million years has found that around three quarters of differences between the brains of species of monkeys and apes are due to internal reorganization that is independent of size. The

Analysis of eight studies on diet and stroke published between 1990 and 2012 has found that risk of first-time stroke dropped with every 7g increase in total daily fibre. That amount of fibre is contained in a bowl of wholewheat pasta plus two servings of fruit or vegetables.

Insufficient data is available to say whether soluble or insoluble fibre is better. The studies came from the United States, northern Europe, Australia, and Japan.

Matching patterns of sales data for lottery games in one American county for a year against daily temperature has revealed that sales for scratch tickets (many options to select) fell by nearly $600 with every 1° Fahrenheit increase in temperature. On the other hand, sales for lotto tickets, which require fewer decisions, were not affected.

Caffeine occurs naturally in the nectar of coffee and citrus flowers. A study of honeybees has revealed that those fed on caffeinated nectar were three times more likely to remember a flower's scent than bees fed sugar alone, after 24 hours. After three days, they were still twice as likely to remember the flower than those fed sugar alone.


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