Diagnosing Dementia & MCI Using Computers

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The first two bodies of work below use computer-based games to research the decline of 3D navigational skills (one of the first symptoms exhibited by the onset of dementia of all kinds), and the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), respectively. The third study reports on the correlation that “Less Daily Computer Use is Related to Smaller Hippocampal Volumes in Cognitively Intact Elderly”.

Sea Hero Quest

Sea Hero Quest is a collaboration between Alzheimer’s Research UK, Deutsche Telekom, the game designers Glitchers and scientists at 7 British universities. Recognizing that one of the first symptoms of dementia is loss of navigational skills, Sea Hero Quest mobile was designed to help researchers to understand the mental processes involved in 3D navigation, while at the same time providing a sea journey quest taken by a son attempting to recover the memories his father has lost to dementia. There are three sections to the game: navigation, shooting flares to test orientation, and chasing creatures. Each section is scientifically valid as well as fun and exciting. The game was launched in 2016 and, according to its website (below), nearly 3 million people have played the game up to now,. This amount of play has generated effectively 80 years worth of data, in turn equivalent to about 12,000 years of typical lab-based dementia research.

Here are three links to media articles about the game:
Sea Hero Quest: the mobile phone game helping fight dementia
Game shows that ability to navigate declines at young age
Here is the Wikipedia entry for the game:
Sea Hero Quest [Wikipedia]
And here is the actual game site on the web, where you can download the Mobile and/or VR versions of the game:
Sea Hero Quest [Site]

Virtual Super Market (VSM)

The study reported here uses as “Virtual Super Market” Virtual Reality (VR) brain-training-style program to assess mild cognitive impairment on the part of the player. It is of definite interest since the testing game and assessment can be carried out without an administrator. Here is a link to a media article about the work:
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) detected with brain training game

Here are a link to the original study together with an earlier prototype work:
A Preliminary Study on the Feasibility of Using a Virtual Reality Cognitive Training Application for Remote Detection of Mild Cognitive Impairment
Can a Virtual Reality Cognitive Training Application Fulfill a Dual Role? Using the Virtual Supermarket Cognitive Training Application as a Screening Tool for Mild Cognitive Impairment

Computer Use Time Can Correlate With Cognitive Decline

The study followed 27 ‘cognitively-healthy’, dementia-free adults aged 65 or older over 9 years in Portland. On the one hand, the study used MRI scans to measure the volume of the volunteers’ hippocampus, and on the other hand, data on computer use among participants was collected via mouse movement detection software. Embedded sensor technology monitored their mobility, sleep, socialisation, digital activities and medication intake. The research results showed that an additional hour of computer use each day was linked to a 0.025% larger hippocampal volume, leading to the conclusion that lower computer usage could be used to predict cognitive decline.

Here is a link to a media article about the study:
Computer use could help predict early-stage Alzheimer’s

Here is the original research study:
Less Daily Computer Use is Related to Smaller Hippocampal Volumes in Cognitively Intact Elderly

Here is the Wikipedia entry for Hippocampus:
Hippocampus [Wikipedia]

All the links have been added to Diagnosis & Tests.

Diabetes Drug Reverses Alzheimers — In Mice

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It is fairly well established that diabetes and high blood sugar are serious risk factors for Alzheimers (see Alzheimer’s Linked To Sugar & Diabetes and also: Diabetes and Alzheimer’s linked, Alzheimer’s disease
and diabetes
, and research review: Type 2 Diabetes as a Risk Factor for Alzheimer’s Disease: The Confounders, Interactions, and Neuropathology Associated With This Relationship)

So it would seem to be great news that the use of an established drug for treating human diabetes might also directly treat Alzheimer’s or at least the symptoms thereof in mice models. However this snarky, but all-too-true, comment from Hacker News summarizes the situation:

This would be great news if we [had] not cured mice many times before of Alzheimer’s. Unfortunatly all the drugs that have worked in mice failed when tested in humans.

Of course, this might be the magic time. Since the drug is already approved for human use, we’ll find out much sooner whether it works for Alzheimer’s. Here are four media articles about the work (all with similar titles):

A Diabetes Drug Has ‘Significantly Reversed Memory Loss’ in Mice With Alzheimer’s
Diabetes drug ‘significantly reverses memory loss’ in mice with Alzheimer’s
Diabetes drug ‘significantly reverses memory loss’ in mice with Alzheimer’s
Diabetes drug “significantly reverses memory loss” in mice with Alzheimer’s
And here is the original research article:
Neuroprotective effects of a triple GLP-1/GIP/glucagon receptor agonist in the APP/PS1 transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease

The three links in the first paragraph have been added to Risk Factors. The links regarding the diabetes drug have been added to Treatment > Drugs.

Serious Exercise May Seriously Defer Aging

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We’ve previously posted a number of links in Health > Physical Exercise about the value of physical exercise, and more information about that value just keeps rolling in. And it’s not just physical benefits provided by exercise —- the second part of this post describes cognitive benefits from exercise. So choose some form of fairly intense exercise, and get with it!

Exercise In Old Age: Preserve The Immune System & Muscle Mass

Two recently reported studies show that serious exercise into the 80’s can maintain an immune system similar to a 20-year old’s, and can also significantly reduce loss of muscle mass. Here are two media articles about the studies:
How exercise in old age prevents the immune system from declining
A lifetime of regular exercise slows down aging, study finds

And here are the two original studies:
Major features of immunesenescence, including reduced thymic output, are ameliorated by high levels of physical activity in adulthood
Properties of the vastus lateralis muscle in relation to age and physiological function in master cyclists aged 55–79 years

Exercise To Delay Cognitive Decline

In the last several years, a number of studies have shown that typical cognitive decline due to aging can be delayed by exercise. Here are a links to a number of media articles dealing with groups of the research studies:
Intensive Exercise May Delay Cognitive Decline by 10 Years
xercise May Slow Down Brain Aging By 10 Years: Study
Taking The Stairs Can Slow Down Brain Aging: Study
Exercise May Slow Brain Aging by 10 Years for Older People
Exercise might slow rate of mental decline by 10 years for older people
Study: Exercise may slow mental decline by 10 years
Intensive Exercise May Delay Cognitive Decline by 10 Years

Here are links to the research articles:
Leisure-time physical activity associates with cognitive decline. The Northern Manhattan Study (Abstract)
Ideal Cardiovascular Health and Cognitive Aging in the Northern Manhattan Study
Differences between chronological and brain age are related to education and self-reported physical activity
Effect of Physical Exercise on Cognitive Performance in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment or Dementia: A Systematic Review

All the links mentioned in this post have been added to both
Health > Physical Exercise and Aging.

Strong Brain Blog Announcements

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Dementia Early Warning Signs Infographic

We’ve added an infographic displaying eight early warning signs of dementia at:

Dementia: 8 Early Signs

How To Get Email Notices for New Posts

We’ve added a way for you to get a small email for each new post. We’ll never send anything else — no ads or other spam. Either click here on this link

Get Email Notices for New Posts

or click on it near the top of the sidebar.

Updated [Add Sex]: Distilled Tips for Healthy Aging

Since our popular post Distilled: Tips for Healthy Aging was first published on October 18, 2015, quite a few new pages and posts about tips for aging have appeared (and a few old ones have died). We’ve redone the searches, have revised and expanded the post, and in particular, have added in tips regarding the benefits of sex when aging.  We’ve converted the post to a permanent page appearing at

Distilled: Tips for Healthy Aging [Updated].

The revised and expanded contributing links are listed at:

Links Contributing To Distilled: Tips for Healthy Aging [Updated].

Category: Announcements

Why Fiber is Good For You

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Dieticians have maintained that fiber (typically from fruits and vegetables) is an essential part of our diet, and that a high-fiber diet has many health benefits, including lower risk for developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, as well as lowering blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels (Health benefits of dietary fiber). Now evidence is coming in as to why that is the case: fiber (that resists digestion by the body’s digestive system) is readily eaten by bacteria in the gut — fiber feeds the gut’s microbiome. Keeping the microbiome in good shape is essential for the proper functioning of the gut.

Here are two media article discussing both studies (which were carried out with mice, but will apply to human systems too):
Fiber Is Good for You. Now Scientists May Know Why.

PSA from your gut microbes: Enjoy the holidays, but don’t forget your fiber

And here are the two original studies:
Bifidobacteria or Fiber Protects against Diet-Induced Microbiota-Mediated Colonic Mucus Deterioration

Fiber-Mediated Nourishment of Gut Microbiota Protects against Diet-Induced Obesity by Restoring IL-22-Mediated Colonic Health

All four links have been added to Aging and Health > Diet.

Category: Aging, Diet

Alzheimer’s Linked To Sugar & Diabetes

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A new longitudinal investigation studied 5,189 people over 10 years. It found that people with high blood sugar had a faster rate of cognitive decline than those with normal blood sugar. This was true whether or not their blood-sugar level technically made them diabetic. In other words, the higher the blood sugar, the faster the cognitive decline.

Below are three media articles about the study:
The Startling Link Between Sugar and Alzheimer’s
Faster Cognitive Decline Tied to Hyperglycemia
Diabetes link to long-term mental decline

And here is a link to the formal study itself:
HbA1c, diabetes and cognitive decline: the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

These four links have all been added to Health > Diet and Alzheimer’s > Risk Factors.

Category: Diet, Risk Factors

Another Promising Drug: Montelukast

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Do you have asthma or hay fever? Do you take the generic drug montelukast (info: m1 m2 m3) for it? You could be taking a drug which might turn out to treat Alzheimer’s.

Montelukast acts to reduce inflammation in the lungs, and this led to the idea that it might reduce brain inflammation. This led to a successful study in rats, as reported below in four media articles, and the original research article.
Old rat brains rejuvenated and new neurons grown by asthma drug
Asthma drug could rejuvenate ageing brains, study suggests
Dementia cure? Scientists find common asthma drug REJUVENATES ageing brains
Asthma drug Singulair may be a cure for Alzheimer’s, claims study

Original rat brains research article:
Structural and functional rejuvenation of the aged brain by an approved anti-asthmatic drug

Because montelukast has long been approved for human use (for asthma), this led quickly to a successful Phase 1 clinical trial:
…Successful Clinical Study for Montelukast for the Treatment of Degenerative Diseases of the Brain

And this has been followed by the recent start of a Phase 2A clinical trial:
…Initiates Phase 2A Montelukast Versafilm™ Clinical Trial in Alzheimer’s Patients

The outcome of the Phase 2A will give the first indications of whether montelukast actually will have effects on human brains. Many drugs have previously appeared promising in rat studies, but did not turn out to have beneficial effects for humans, and never made it to human use. Even those approved for humans don’t have much beneficial effect, if any: The hard truth about Alzheimer’s drugs.

All the links here have been added to Alzheimers > Treatment > Drugs.

Category: Drugs

Very Sweet Coping Story

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Here’s the story of an Alzheimer’s sufferer who forgot that he was married to his wife of 38 years. He proposed to her, she (smartly) accepted, and they were married again:

Husband with Alzheimer’s forgot he was married to his wife of 38 years. He proposed, and they married again.

The link is in Alzheimer’s > Coping & Caregivers > Coping Stories

It’s About Time!

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The well-known tech startup incubator and venture capital firm Y Combinator has announced a new special program named YC Bio. It is aimed at early-stage life science biotechnology startups which are still in laboratory mode. The first sub-area of biology in which the program will focus is healthspan and age-related disease, where ‘healthspan’ denotes the amount of time person is healthy as opposed to the time they are alive but unhealthy. Startups accepted into the program will be provided with free lab space, and will participate the standard Y Combinator program. Successful ‘graduates’ will be offered (by YC) between $500,000 and $1 million for 10 to 20 percent ownership of the startup (as opposed to $120,000 for 7 percent ownership for non-YC Bio companies in the YC class).

Hopefully this program, and potentially others like it, will help accelerate the development of everything from drugs to devices which will help people ward off the ravages of aging.

Below is a link to the YC announcement, together with a short recap of it:

YC Bio
Y Combinator is launching a biotech track

Both links have been added to Aging

Category: Aging

Eating Green For Brain (And Eye) Health

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The drumbeat of studies demonstrating the value of appropriate diet in managing brain health and resisting cognitive decline continues. Not long after this summer’s report Mediterranean/MIND Diet Seriously Fights Alzheimer’s/Dementia” comes a new study showing that sufficient consumption of green leafy vegetables might help slow mental decline so that you might have a mental age 11 years younger than you would otherwise. An added benefit is that a diet high in natural vitamin C, which includes green leafy vegetables, can lower the risk of cataracts in your eyes as you age by at least 20%, as seen in a another new study.

The green-leafy-vegetables-dementia study utilized 960 people (average age 81) from the Memory and Aging Project (MAP). The participants self-reported their eating habits on the Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), and their thinking and memory skills were tested annually over an average of almost 5 years. From the FFQs, the researchers recorded the number of servings of spinach (½ cup cooked), kale/collard-greens (½ cup cooked), and lettuce salad (1 cup raw). Those whose intake of these vegetables was in the highest quintile (median 1.3 servings/day) had a cognitive decline rate that was equivalent to being 11 years younger in age.

The vitamin-C-cataract study showed that a healthy diet high in vitamin C obtained from fruits and vegetables can help slow or prevent the the development of cataracts regardless of genetic predisposition. The study utilized 1,000 pairs of female twins from the UK Twins registry. They filled out a detailed food questionnaire that measured their day-to-day nutrient intake when they were about 60 years old. Each participant’s eyes were digitally scanned to measure their initial progression of cataracts. Those whose diet included natural vitamin C obtained from roughly two servings of fruit and vegetables daily were 20% less likely to have developed cataracts than those who ate a less nutritious diet.

Ten years later, the study examined 324 of the twin pairs. Those who had originally reported eating more vitamin C in their diet were now at a 33% lower risk of developing cataracts compared to those who had eaten less vitamin C.

Unfortunately, popping vitamin C capsules won’t do the job. Those who reaped the greatest protective benefits had been steadily eating at least twice the recommended daily allowance of fruits and veggies, which is 75 milligrams for women and 90 milligrams for men. The study leader said: “We found no beneficial effect from supplements, only from the vitamin C in the diet. This probably means that it is not just vitamin C but everything about a healthy diet that is good for us and good for aging.” Consider regularly eating foods like oranges, red and green bell peppers, cantaloupe, papaya, kiwi, broccoli, and dark leafy greens.

Here are four media articles on the green-leafy-vegetables-dementia study:
Eat your vegetables: Nutrients in leafy greens may help prevent dementia
A Salad a Day May Be Good for Brain Health [Possible paywall]
Daily Serving of Leafy Greens May Boost Brain Health

And here is the original green-leafy-vegetables-dementia study article:
Nutrients and bioactive in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline

Here are two media articles on the vitamin-C-cataract study article:
A Healthy Diet Rich In Vitamin C May Lower Risk Of Cataracts By 20%
Increased vitamin C in the diet could help protect against cataracts

And here is the original vitamin-C-cataract study article:
Genetic and Dietary Factors Influencing the Progression of Nuclear Cataract

All eight links have been added to Health > Diet.

Category: Diet