“Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Temporarily Reverses Age-Associated Cognitive Decline”

31 Oct

A paper in The Journal of Neuroscience claims that a single session of transcranial direct current brain stimulation can “temporarily reverse nonbeneficial effects of aging on cognition and brain activity and connectivity.”

If the research can be replicated and extended, it will have enormous consequences.


Happy Halloween! Esperanto version

31 Oct

“The Giant Spider” (“La Giganta Araneo”) Esperanto Trailer. I like the guy with the fly swatter.


Weekly Grocery Adverts Offer Up Unhealthy Choices

31 Oct


“The average American diet, including underconsumption of fruits and vegetables but overconsumption of protein foods, was reflected in the relative frequency of food groups advertised in weekly sales circulars.”

Originally posted on Science Abstracts:

In short, the foods in circulars are not that healthy.

Even the ‘good’ news isn’t all that good, for example 20% of the vegetables are for potatoes, almost half of the grain are for sugar-added products and a quarter of the dairy are for milk based desserts.  The breakdown graph is here

Proportions of food groups advertised in 52 weekly US supermarket sales circulars in 2009. Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:95

Proportions of food groups advertised in 52 weekly US supermarket sales circulars in 2009.
Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:95


Foods advertised in US weekly supermarket sales circulars over one year: a content analysis

The nutritional content of Americans’ shopping carts is suboptimal despite federal dietary guidance, in this case, the MyPlate consumer icon which displays desired proportions of vegetables, fruits, dairy, grains and protein foods for consumption. Consumers mention print advertising—such as weekly sales circulars—frequently as influencing their grocery shopping decisions.

To examine and describe the relative proportions of advertised foods aggregated into the MyPlate…

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The cognitive effects of adolescent cannabis use

30 Oct

A paper, given at a meeting of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Berlin reports:

“occasional adolescent cannabis use does not lead to poorer educational and intellectual performance, but that heavy cannabis use is associated with slightly poorer exam results at age 16.”

You can read the press release here. The main points:

“Cannabis use appeared to be associated with decreased intellectual performance. Cannabis use was, however, highly correlated with other risky behaviours such as alcohol, cigarette and other drug use. When the researchers took these other behaviours into account, they found there was no relationship between cannabis use and lower IQ at age 15.
Heavier cannabis users (at least 50 times by age 15) however, did show marginally impaired educational abilities. These children tended to have poorer exam results (3% lower) on compulsory school exams taken at age 16, even after adjusting for childhood educational performance, as well as alcohol, cigarette and other drug use.”

A pdf of the presentation can be found here. Note that this is not a claim that cannabis use is safe, only that occasional use may not have negative effects on cognition, heavier use was found to be “linked to marginally worse educational performance.” The authors suggest that cannabis use may be a proxy for risky lifestyle:

 “The pattern of attenuation suggests rather than a specific effect of cannabis on IQ and education, any substance use at a young age, and the ‘risky’ lifestyle such behaviours reveal, are related to poorer outcomes.”


Ten percent of drinkers consume more than half of all alcohol

29 Oct

Alcohol is America’s most serious drug problem. Contrary to industry propaganda, there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption. The health benefits claimed for alcohol do not survive critical scrutiny.

The Washington Post reports

“the top 10 percent of drinkers account for well over half of the alcohol consumed in any given year.”

According to Stanford researcher Philip J. Cook:

“One consequence is that the heaviest drinkers are of greatly disproportionate importance to the sales and profitability of the alcoholic-beverage industry,” he writes writes. “If the top decile somehow could be induced to curb their consumption level to that of the next lower group (the ninth decile), then total ethanol sales would fall by 60 percent.”


Hat tip to BoingBoing.

Will Poor Sleep and Sleep Deprivation Now Lead to a Lifestyle-Related Dementia Later?

29 Oct


“to function optimally, the brain requires quality sleep and enough of it.”

Originally posted on Going Gentle Into That Good Night:

restorative sleep dementias going gentle into that good nightThe answer is “probably.”

There have been several studies in the last two years on the effects – positive and negative – of sleep on the brain. They all agree on one point: to function optimally, the brain requires quality sleep and enough of it.

They also agree on another point: the way our modern society is structured, the majority of us are not getting enough sleep, and the little sleep we are getting is not quality sleep.

The fact that poor sleep and future dementia are linked is not new.

A sleep disorder known as REM sleep behavior disorder is a key characteristic of Lewy Body dementia, but the sleep disorder is often present decades before symptoms of Lewy Body dementia emerge.

In a study published in the The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2011, researchers showed a strong link between sleep apnea (sleep-disordered breathing) and dementia.

View original 1,994 more words

Gizmodo takes aim at Lumosity

28 Oct

Kate Knibbs at Gizmodo reports:

“Recently, a coalition of nearly 70 researchers spoke against brain games like Lumosity, signing a letter of consensus posted by the Stanford Longevity Center that lambasted the brain training community for promising a kind of mind power boost that just isn’t provable.”

The letter can be found here. This is the concluding paragraph:

“In summary: We object to the claim that brain games offer consumers a scientifically grounded avenue to reduce or reverse cognitive decline when there is no compelling scientific evidence to date that they do. The promise of a magic bullet detracts from the best evidence to date, which is that cognitive health in old age reflects the long-term effects of healthy, engaged lifestyles. In the judgment of the signatories, exaggerated and misleading claims exploit the anxiety of older adults about impending cognitive decline. We encourage continued careful research and validation in this field.”



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