Sounds Like SF: Brain Zaps Boost Memory

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Short-term (“working”) memory is crucial for a range of cognitive activities, ranging from reading to counting and more. As we, say, read a sentence, groups of brain neurons fire in coordinated ways to create brain waves to hold words in working memory as long as we need them to comprehend the sentence. As we age, these coordinated brain waves begin to fall out of sync, causing short-term memory to falter.

Recently published research demonstrated that applying jolts of weak electrical current can synchronize waves in the prefrontal and temporal cortex—two brain areas critical for cognition. The experimental subjects were 42 healthy people in their 60s and 70s. On associated visual recognition tests, the subjects improved their test performance for about an hour. A control group had current applied to different brain areas and did not show any test improvement. Interestingly, applying current to produce “chatter” in the brains of young people in their 20’s reduced their test performance.

Below are four media articles on the work:
Zapping elderly brains with electricity improves short-term memory—for almost an hour
Scientists reverse memory decline using electrical pulses
Could Transcranial Brain Stimulation Help Sharpen Memory?
Brain zaps boost memory in people over 60

Here is the Boston University press release on the work:
As Memories Fade, Can We Supercharge Them Back to Life?

Here is a link to the research article:
Working memory revived in older adults by synchronizing rhythmic brain circuits

All links have been added to Neuro-Psych.

Category: Neuro-Psych

Sniffing For Alzheimer’s

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The idea of being able to utilize an inexpensive “scratch & sniff” test such as described in Smelling Alzheimer’s & Brain Injury? to obtain early warnings of possible Alzheimer’s onset is certainly intriguing, and work is ongoing. Most recently, a study reported a correlation between development of poor sense of smell and a notably higher incidence of death within 10 years. The mechanism(s) and meaning(s) remain unclear.

Here are two media articles on the work:
Routine sense of smell tests could be used to spot signs of dementia
Poor sense of smell associated with nearly 50 percent higher risk for death in 10 years

Here is the research publication Summary for Patients:
Poor Sense of Smell and Risk for Death in Older Adults

Here are interesting overviews from 2017 and 2018:
Smell Test May Sniff Out Oncoming Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
Can a Smell Test Sniff Out Alzheimer’s Disease?

Here are media articles on several smell-related research reports from 2017:
Sniffing out dementia with a simple smell test
Alzheimer’s could be diagnosed early with sniff tests
Sniffing out dementia with a simple smell test

All links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Diagnosis & Tests.

World Health Organization (WHO) Dementia Recommendations

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The WHO recently released it’s first recommendations regarding prevention or delay of dementia. They include: getting regular physical exercise, not using tobacco, drinking less alcohol, maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, and eating a healthy diet — particularly a Mediterranean diet. WHO also warned against taking dietary supplements such as vitamins B and E in an effort to combat cognitive decline and dementia.
Additionally, “An essential element of every national dementia plan is support for carers of people with dementia,” said Dr Dévora Kestel, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO. “Dementia carers are very often family members who need to make considerable adjustments to their family and professional lives to care for their loved ones.

Here are five media articles about the WHO report, including two covering expert reactions to the report:
Eat well, exercise more: New global guidelines to reduce risk of dementia
6 Ways To Reduce Your Risk Of Dementia, According To A New Report
WHO issues first advice on dementia: exercise and don’t smoke
expert reaction to WHO Guidelines on risk reduction of cognitive decline and dementia
How to cut your dementia risk, according to experts

Here are two WHO press releases, together with a set of WHO links on management of dementia:
Adopting a healthy lifestyle helps reduce the risk of dementia
WHO guidelines on risk reduction of cognitive decline and dementia
Evidence-based recommendations for management of dementia in non-specialized health settings

All links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Amelioration/Prevention.

FDA: Stop Making False Claims For Supplements

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The US FDA has sent warning letters to 17 manufacturers of supplements, warning them to cease making unsubstantiated claims that their products will prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease. These companies are illegally selling over 58 products which are unapproved new drugs and/or misbranded drugs.

Here are three media articles about the action:
FDA sends warning letters to 17 companies for ‘illegally selling’ products claiming to treat Alzheimer’s
FDA targets illegally marketed dietary supplements
Supplement Makers Touting Cures for Alzheimer’s and Other Diseases Get F.D.A. Warning

Here is the FDA press release:
FDA takes action against 17 companies for illegally selling products claiming to treat Alzheimer’s disease

All links have been added to
Alzheimers > Amelioration/Prevention > Vitamins & Select Foods.

Another Route To Alzheimer’s Diagnosis Thru The Eyes

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Because the retina at the back of the eye is essentially a part of the brain, it is an intriguing target for diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Earlier, we reported on work (The Eyes May Know About Alzheimer’s) developing a scanning machine for determining the amount of plaque present in the retina. Recent work, using 39 people with Alzheimer’s and 133 healthy people, takes the same route through the eyes, but instead examines the density of the microscopic network of blood vessels in the retina. The network in healthy people was notably denser than that in people with Alzheimer’s.

Here are two media articles on the work:
Alzheimer’s and brain health could soon be detected using an eye exam
Could an eye doctor diagnose Alzheimer’s before you have symptoms?

Here is the research report:
Retinal Microvascular and Neurodegenerative Changes in Alzheimer’s Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment Compared with Control Participants

All links have been added to Alzheimers > Diagnosis & Tests.

New Genetic Work May Provide Future Protection

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A large new investigation, using over 94,000 people in the US and Europe with clinically diagnosed Alzheimer’s Disease, explored their genetic makeup with reference to that disease. The study revealed five new genetic variants that increase risk for Alzheimer’s. The work will will not immediately affect medical practice in the immediate future, but potentially will provide insights into brain/body interactions involved with dementia, and may help lead to treatments for young people who carry these genes.

Here are two media articles about the work:
Newly discovered Alzheimer’s genes further hope for future treatments
Alzheimer’s Disease Meta-Analysis Identifies Five New Risk Genes

Here is the NIH (National Institutes of Health) press release about the work:
Data sharing uncovers five new risk genes for Alzheimer’s disease

And here is the research publication:
Genetic meta-analysis of diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease identifies new risk loci and implicates Aβ, tau, immunity and lipid processing

All links have been added to Alzheimers > Risk Factors > Genetics and Neuro-Psych.

Gum Disease And/Or Herpes: Alzheimer’s Culprits?

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Science doesn’t always proceed linearly straight-forward. Quite often, it zigs and zags between competing hypotheses which can even be contradictory. Evidence is beginning to accumulate that this may indeed be the case with Alzheimer’s research. For over thirty years, from the early 1980’s, the dominant hypothesis has been that the accumulations of amyloid and tau protein plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients are abnormal and are the cause of the mental decline of those patients. So research focused on how to directly halt or mitigate the growth of those plaques, and that work has been strikingly disappointing. Quite large amounts of money have been invested in attempting to develop drugs which function directly against the plaque accumulation, yet none have been successful in human trials.

The hypothesis that there might be an external physical cause for the plaque accumulation, that there might be a bacterial or viral agent prompting the amyloid and tau accumulations, that the plaque accumulations might actually be a way the brain fights back against certain invaders, was regarded a heresy. But now there is developing evidence that there might be one or two or even more invading agents against which the brain attempts to fight back with the amyloid and tau plaques. (For the story of one of the herpes researchers, see How an outsider in Alzheimer’s research bucked the prevailing theory — and clawed for validation.)

We posted earlier (Herpes & Alzheimer’s and Herpes & Alzheimer’s — More) about studies strongly suggesting that the Herpes virus may be one of the causative agents. Separately, other studies (Periodontitis is associated with cognitive impairment among older adults: analysis of NHANES-III and
Inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease: Possible role of periodontal diseases
) have suggested Periodontal diseases as similar agents. Now a new study strongly suggests that this may indeed be the case.

Here are four media articles about the newest work:
We may finally know what causes Alzheimer’s – and how to stop it
DEMENTIA AND GUM DISEASE: ALZHEIMER’S LINKED TO GINGIVITIS
Gum Disease Bacteria Found in Alzheimer’s Brains
How gum disease could lead to Alzheimer’s

And here is the research report on the work:
Porphyromonas gingivalis in Alzheimer’s disease brains: Evidence for disease causation and treatment with small-molecule inhibitors

All links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Risk Factors and Neuro-Psych

Mild Cognitive Impairment Risk: Lowering Blood Pressure Can Help

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Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the precursor stage to serious dementia. It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment. These problems are more substantial than the ordinary normal age-related mental changes. It’s well known that if you have high blood pressure, it is very beneficial to your heart to lower it, perhaps dramatically, to a systolic blood pressure less than 120 mmHg. A new study shows that such lowering can also measurably reduce the risk of MCI.

Here are six media articles on the work:
Lowering blood pressure may help cut risk of early dementia, study finds
Lowering blood pressure could cut risk factor for dementia
Mild cognitive impairment: Reducing blood pressure can lower risk
Treating high blood pressure could reduce risk of memory issues, study finds
Study Offers Hint of Hope for Staving Off Dementia in Some People
Major New Study Finds Lowering Blood Pressure Can Prevent Cognitive Decline, but Questions Remain
Here is the National Institutes of Health press release on the study:
Does intensive blood pressure control reduce dementia?

Here is a link to the study itself:
Effect of Intensive vs Standard Blood Pressure Control on Probable Dementia

All links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Amelioration/Prevention and Alzheimer’s > Risk Factors.

Coping & Caregiving: Bittersweet Stories

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Memories — stolen by dementia, saved by family, friends, by caregivers, and by the patient — a writer — in his own essay:

As bittersweet as can be:
Couple Renews Wedding Vows After Husband With Alzheimer’s Disease Forgets He’s Married

Accepting a sufferer’s wonderful, wild story:
A Boyfriend Too Good to Be True

A family struggled to save a pianist’s music before Alzheimer’s could steal it, and a professional musician helped bring his music to life again:
HIS HEART, HER HANDS

Caring for a patient suffering from dementia means coming to terms with the frustrating paradoxes of memory and language:
The deviousness of dementia {An edited version of:} Hope Is the Enemy

Mothers, fondly and bittersweetly remembered:
Everything my mom remembers: Our love and memories, her Alzheimer’s
My Mother, Lost and Found

Terry Pratchett, fighting back:
‘A butt of my own jokes’: Terry Pratchett on the disease that finally claimed him

All the links are in Alzheimer’s > Coping & Caregivers > Coping Stories.

Irisin, Exercise & Alzheimer’s

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Irisin is a messenger hormone generated by muscles during exercise. Recent research shows that higher levels of irisin circulating in the blood is correlated with diminished risk of Alzheimer’s: One more reason to maintain at least a moderate exercise program.

Here are seven media articles about irisin, exercise, and Alzheimer’s, together with a research review article, and the most recent research article:

The molecule that helps exercise protect the brain from Alzheimer’s
Exercise produces irisin — irisin might prevent Alzheimer’s, researchers say
‘Exercise Hormone’ Could Slow Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
A hormone released during exercise might protect against Alzheimer’s
To Burn Fat, You Could Exercise … or Shiver
How Exercise May Help Keep Our Memory Sharp
Irisin: The “Exercise Hormone” has Powerful Health Benefits

Research article:
Exercise-linked FNDC5/irisin rescues synaptic plasticity and memory defects in Alzheimer’s models
Research review article:
The Role of Irisin in Alzheimer’s Disease

All links have been added to Alzheimers > Amelioration/Prevention and Health > Physical Exercise.