Latest Research News

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.

http://www.futurity.org/health-medicine/interactive-robot-trains-kids-with-autism/

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.

Data from the very large, long-running UK National Child Development Study has revealed that those who exercised at least four times weekly as both a child and an adult performed better on cognitive tests at age 50 than those who exercised two to three times per month or less, and the latter in turn performed better than those who hadn’t regularly exercised at all.

A 2-year trial involving 251 patients with Parkinson's disease and early motor complications (mean age, 52 years; mean duration of disease, 7.5 years) has found that those given deep brain stimulation surgery significantly improved their quality of life, motor disability, activities of daily living, levodopa-induced motor complications, and time with good mobility and no dyskinesia. Those given normal medical therapy, on the other hand, declined or at best got no worse.

More evidence for the importance of

A study involving 520 intensive care patients who had been put on ventilators for acute lung injury (ALI), of whom 186 patients of the 275 survivors were followed up over the next two years, found that 35% of them had clinically significant symptoms of PTSD. Nearly two-thirds of these (62%) still had symptoms at two years.

ICU survivors with PTSD are unusual in that they often experience flashbacks to delusions or hallucinations they had in the hospital, rather than events that actually occurred

Brain scans of 61 older adults (65-90), of whom 30 were cognitively healthy, 24 cognitively impaired and 7 diagnosed with dementia, found that, across all groups, both memory and executive function correlated negatively with brain infarcts, many of which had been clinically silent. The level of amyloid in the brain did not correlate with either changes in memory or executive function, and there was no evidence that amyloid interacted with infarcts to impair thinking.

A study involving 187 children and adolescents with multiple sclerosis, plus 44 who experienced their first neurologic episode (clinically isolated syndrome) indicative of MS, has found that 35% of those with MS and 18% of those with clinically isolated syndrome were cognitively impaired. Cognitive assessment was done using a battery of 11 tests. The most common areas of impairment were fine motor coordination, visual-motor integration, and speeded information processing.

In the first study to analyze parent praise in a real-world setting, it’s been found that the kind of praise parents give their babies and toddlers influences the child’s motivation later on, and plays a role in children’s beliefs about themselves and their desire to take on challenges five years later.

A study involving 180 13-year-olds who had been assessed every year since kindergarten has found that their understanding of the number system in first grade predicted functional numeracy more than six years later, but skill at using counting procedures to solve arithmetic problems did not. Researchers controlled for intelligence,

"The general consensus is that math anxiety doesn't affect children much before fourth grade.” New research contests that.

Study 1: found many first grade students do experience negative feelings and worry related to math. This math anxiety negatively affects their math performance when it comes to solving math problems in standard arithmetic notation.

Study 2: found that second grade math anxiety affected second grade computations and math applications. Additionally, children with higher levels of math anxiety in second grade learned less math in third grade.

A rat study has found that infant males have more of the Foxp2 protein (associated with language development) than females and that males also made significantly more distress calls than females. Increasing the protein level in females and reducing it in males reversed the gender differences in alarm calls.

A small pilot study with humans found that 4-year-old girls had more of the protein than boys. In both cases, it is the more communicative gender that has the higher level of Foxp2.

Evidence against an evolutionary explanation for male superiority in spatial ability coves from a review of 35 studies covering 11 species: cuttlefish, deer mice, horses, humans, laboratory mice, meadow voles, pine voles, prairie voles, rats, rhesus macaques and talastuco-tucos (a type of burrowing rodent). In eight species, males demonstrated moderately superior spatial skills to their female counterparts, regardless of the size of their territories or the extent to which males ranged farther than females of the same species.

New findings support a mathematical model predicting that the slow, steady firing of neurons in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that maintains visual representations in

A small study of “Super Agers” has found a key difference between them and typical older adults: an unusually large anterior cingulate (involved in attention), with four times as many von Economo neurons.

It certainly sounds like pseudo-science, but that's why we do science - because the weirdness of something is not a particularly good reason to dismiss it (quantum! many-universes!). Sometimes we don't understand enough about how things work to know why they work, but finding out whether or not they work is a good place to start.

Tori Rodriguez at Scientific American:

Preliminary findings from a small study show that older adults (68-91), after learning to use Facebook, performed about 25% better on tasks designed to measure their ability to continuously monitor and to quickly add or delete the contents of their

Autobiographical memory is an interesting memory domain, given its inextricable association with identity. One particularly fascinating aspect of it is its unevenness - why do we remember so little from the first years of life ('childhood amnesia'), why do we remember some periods of our life so much more vividly than others? There are obvious answers (well, nothing interesting happened in those other times), but the obvious is not always correct. Intriguing, then, to read about a new study that links those memorable periods to self-identity.

I’ve reported often on the perils of multitasking. Here is yet another one, with an intriguing new finding: it seems that the people who multitask the most are those least capable of doing so!

The study surveyed 310 undergraduate psychology students to find their actual multitasking ability, perceived multitasking ability, cell phone use while driving, use of a wide array of electronic media, and personality traits such as impulsivity and sensation-seeking.

Recent research has suggested that sleep problems might be a risk factor in developing Alzheimer’s, and in mild cognitive impairment. A new study adds to this gathering evidence by connecting reduced slow-wave sleep in older adults to brain atrophy and poorer learning.

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.

I’ve talked before about how even mild head injuries can have serious consequences, and in recent years we’ve seen growing awareness of the long-term dangers of sports’ concussions (especially for young people). This has been followed by a number of initiatives to help protect athletes. However, while encouraging, they may still be under-estimating the problem.

Online social networking, such as Facebook, is hugely popular. A series of experiments has explored the intriguing question of whether our memories are particularly ‘tuned’ to remember the sort of information shared on such sites.

The issue of the effect of menopause on women’s cognition, and whether hormone therapy helps older women fight cognitive decline and dementia, has been a murky one. Increasing evidence suggests that the timing and type of therapy is critical. A new study makes clear that we also need to distinguish between women who experience early surgical menopause and those who experience natural menopause.

A new study adds more support to the idea that the increasing difficulty in learning new information and skills that most of us experience as we age is not down to any difficulty in acquiring new information, but rests on the interference from all the old information.

I’ve discussed before how hard it is to correct false knowledge. This is not only a problem for the classroom — the preconceptions students bring to a topic, and the difficulty of replacing them with the correct information — but, in these days of so much misinformation in the media and on the web, an everyday problem.

I’ve written before about the gathering evidence that sensory impairment, visual impairment and hearing loss in particular, is a risk factor for age-related cognitive decline and dementia. Now a large long-running study provides more support for the association between hearing loss and age-related cognitive decline.

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.

By using brain scans from 152 Vietnam veterans with a variety of combat-related brain injuries, researchers claim to have mapped the neural basis of general intelligence and emotional intelligence.

There was significant overlap between general intelligence and emotional intelligence, both in behavioral measures and brain activity. Higher scores on general intelligence tests and personality reliably predicted higher performance on measures of emotional intelligence, and many of the same brain regions (in the frontal and parietal cortices) were found to be important to both.

Here’s an encouraging study for all those who think that, because of age or physical damage, they must resign themselves to whatever cognitive impairment or decline they have suffered. In this study, older adults who had suffered from aphasia for a long time nevertheless improved their language function after six weeks of intensive training.

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