Diet Soda And Dementia And Stroke

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Just about a year ago, a study examining the associations of drinking artificially sweetened soda drinks made something of a splash. The study found that people consuming at least a can of so-called diet drinks every day were 2.96 times more likely to suffer an ischaemic stroke and 2.89 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who drank them less than once a week. The study — like many — could not establish a causal relationship either way, only a definite association. But “the best current evidence suggests that when it comes to reducing your risk of dementia, what is good for your heart is also good for your head.”

Here are four media articles about the work:
Stroke and dementia risk linked to artificial sweeteners, study suggests
Diet sodas may be tied to stroke, dementia risk
Is soda bad for your brain? (And is diet soda worse?)
Diet Soda and Dementia: What You Need to Know
Here is a link to the research publication:
Sugar- and Artificially Sweetened Beverages and the Risks of Incident Stroke and Dementia
And here is a link to a collection of expert researcher reactions to the publication:
expert reaction to artificially-sweetened fizzy drinks, stroke and dementia

The links have all been added to Alzheimers > Risk Factors and Health > Diet.

Too Many Hours Sitting Shrinks A Brain Memory Area

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The medial temporal lobe (MTL) includes the hippocampus, and is essential to the processing and storage of long-term memories. Recent research demonstrates that in people over 45, the number of hours spent sitting per day is inversely related to the thickness of the MTL. Crudely put, too many hours sitting can reduce your ability to remember. Since it is already known that sedentary behavior is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and premature death in middle-age and older adults, this most recent work adds another disturbing element to the argument against sitting too much.

While the research appears to show that physical activity, even at high levels, is insufficient to offset the harmful effects of sitting for extended periods, the work is preliminary in that the study focused on hours spent sitting, and did not take into consideration whether participants took breaks during long stretches of sedentary behavior. The researchers said that this could be a limitation of their results.

Here are links to two media articles on the work:
Sitting Too Much Can Change Your Brain & Impact Your Memory, A New Study Says
Too Much Sitting May Shrink the Part of Your Brain Tied to Memory
Here is a link to the research article:
Sedentary behavior associated with reduced medial temporal lobe thickness in middle-aged and older adults

All the links have been added to Aging, Physical Exercise, and Alzheimers > Risk Factors.

New Biological Definition Of Alzheimer’s Advances

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Historically, Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD) has been defined by visible symptoms, simply because that was all that was available. Around the mid 1990’s, various researchers began pushing for the development of a biologically-based specification of the disease, separate from the manifested symptoms. Among other things, this allows reasoning about the onset of AD before manifestation of symptoms, much like cancer or heart disease. It is believed that the AD process may begin decades before any outward sign of memory loss or other decline.

In 2007, leading AD clinicians formed an international working group (IWG) and proposed using amyloid PET scans, MRI, CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) levels of Aβ and tau, genetic testing, brain structural changes, and subtle cognitive changes to diagnose AD at an earlier stage than before. The NIA/AA (National Institute of Aging, and the Alzheimer’s Association) set up a separate leadership group, and in 2011 it proposed a related set of diagnostic guidelines for AD research that utilized separate criteria for three stages of disease: preclinical AD, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia. The current NIA/AA research framework draws on these two efforts and their personnel.

The workers stress, both in the framework publication and in an associated editorial, that this work is directed at research, and will only slowly begin appearing in the clinical context. But it is expected that the new framework will markedly improve research communication and advances.

Links to media articles on the new framework:
New biological research framework for Alzheimer’s seeks to spur discovery
Alzheimer’s disease redefined: New research framework defines Alzheimer’s by brain changes, not symptoms
New Definition of Alzheimer’s Hinges on Biology, Not Symptoms

Links to two different publications of the framework:
NIA-AA Research Framework: Toward a biological definition of Alzheimer’s disease
NIA-AA Research Framework: Toward a biological definition of Alzheimer’s disease

All the links have been added to Neuro-Psych and to Alzheimers > Neurology & Neuroplasticity

Conflict! New Neurons or Not?

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Do human brains keep generating new neurons in the hippocampus throughout life, or not?

Two studies, just published within a month of each other, come down on opposite sides of that question.

The first link below is a well-written media article discussing the two research papers and the possible grounds for the conflict:
Do Older Brains Make New Neurons or Not?

Next are a link to a media article on the “no-new-neurons” work, together with the research abstract:
Your brain stopped making new cells at age 13, study claims
Human hippocampal neurogenesis drops sharply in children to undetectable levels in adults

And here is a link to a media article on the “new-neurons-all-through-life” work, together with a link to the full research article:
Surprise! Scientists find signs of new brain cells in adults as old as 79
Human Hippocampal Neurogenesis Persists throughout Aging

Finally, to give rats their due, here are links to a media article and to the research article, on work showing that strong physical exercise causes rat brains to increase the rate at which new hippocampal neurons are created:
Physical exercise increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis in male rats provided it is aerobic and sustained.
Sustained aerobic exercise increases adult neurogenesis in brain

All the links have been added to Neuro-Psych.

Maybe Flashing Lights For Alzheimer’s Therapy?

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Mice again, but not drugs. Instead, it’s the promising use of strobe-type flashing lights to modify brain waves (neuromodulation) to induce changes beneficial to Alzheimer’s sufferers.

It has been previously noted that both human Alzheimer’s sufferers and the mice models of Alzheimer’s exhibit disrupted gamma waves, which are the highest frequency waves and are associated with higher cognitive events. The study placed mice, genetically engineered to mimic Alzheimer’s symptoms, in a box with strobe lights flashing at 40 cycles per second for an hour a day. This stimulated the visual cortex of the mice to generate more gamma waves, which set in motion an apparent sequence of biological events: A change in gene expression causes microglia (immune cells in the brain) to change shape, going into scavenger mode, where they better perform their usual housekeeping role, clearing away cellular debris, including amyloid-β.

Note how complex the brain and how difficult the science: In Brain Inflammation & Alzheimer’s, we discussed work showing that Alzheimer’s-type inflammatory response on the part of microglia can lead to increase in the deposit of amyloid-β, whereas the present work shows the microglia being stimulated to improve the removal of amyloid-β.

Here is a link to a recent Nature magazine news feature article on the MIT work and related work on the role of brain waves. The article is an excellent explication of the work and how it affects how the brain works:
How flashing lights and pink noise might banish Alzheimer’s, improve memory and more

Below are links to a number of media articles on the work. The first group deals with the MIT group’s earlier report from 2016:
Flashing light therapy’ for Alzheimer’s
Beating Alzheimer’s With Brain Waves
Unique visual stimulation may be new treatment for Alzheimer’s
LED Lights May Be a Promising New Alzheimer’s Treatment, MIT Study Says
Toward Treating Alzheimer’s Disease with Brain Waves
Here is the earlier research article:
Gamma frequency entrainment attenuates amyloid load and modifies microglia

Here are links to media articles on the more recent research:
Alzheimer’s Memory Loss May Be Reversible, MIT Study Says
How does the Sp3-HDAC2 Complex Reduce Synaptic Function in Alzheimer’s?

And here is the more recent research report:
The Transcription Factor Sp3 Cooperates with HDAC2 to Regulate Synaptic Function and Plasticity in Neurons

Light therapy (sitting bathed in light every morning) has been successfully used for treating the form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) (see e.g., Take Light, Not Drugs). If this strobe-approach to Alzheimer’s is successful with humans, Alzheimer’s treatment could utilize a similar therapeutic approach, or even possibly the two therapies could be combined when appropriate.

All of the links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Treatment

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
https://blog.strong-brain.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2135&action=edit
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