Tag Archives: Old age

Multifaceted intervention reduces cognitive decline in the at-risk elderly

8 Apr

Published in the most recent Lancet: “A 2 year multidomain intervention of diet, exercise, cognitive training, and vascular risk monitoring versus control to prevent cognitive decline in at-risk elderly people (FINGER): a randomised controlled trial”

This was a strong randomized prospective control study that involved diet, exercise, and cognitive training. You can read the abstract here.

The paper itself is behind a pay wall, so I can not give you details about the intervention. Some more information can be found in the press release.


“Behavioral Training to Improve Sight”

27 Mar

This is fascinating. In the past, claims about eye training to improve vision have not been substantiated. However, this paper, in Psychological Science, suggests that behavior training might improve contrast sensitivity in older adults. Here is the abstract:

“A major problem for the rapidly growing population of older adults (age 65 and over) is age-related declines in vision, which have been associated with increased risk of falls and vehicle crashes. Research suggests that this increased risk is associated with declines in contrast sensitivity and visual acuity. We examined whether a perceptual-learning task could be used to improve age-related declines in contrast sensitivity. Older and younger adults were trained over 7 days using a forced-choice orientation-discrimination task with stimuli that varied in contrast with multiple levels of additive noise. Older adults performed as well after training as did college-age younger adults prior to training. Improvements transferred to performance for an untrained stimulus orientation and were not associated with changes in retinal illuminance. Improvements in far acuity in younger adults and in near acuity in older adults were also found. These findings indicate that behavioral interventions can greatly improve visual performance for older adults.”


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.”


Memory improvement is possible

11 Oct


Memory does become more difficulty with age. Memory decline is real and part of our lives. But we need not be complacent or defeatist.

We would not expect our older bodies to have the same athletic prowess as in our twenties. Yet despite our physical decline we still see the value in exercise. Exercise slows the pace of aging and is protective against many of the forces of mortality. Exercise will not give us unending youth, but it will improve the quality of our lives. The message of this blog is that the use of memory strategies and memory training can produce real benefits.

We can continue to learn and even improve our memories into old age, we can stave off or, at least moderate, many of the cognitive effects of the aging process. Just like physical exercise it will take a commitment to regular daily work, but the pay offs are high and it is worth the effort.

Lest you think this claim is hyperbole. Let me give you the example of Akira Haraguchi who at age 61 set the world record for memorizing digits of pi; he successfully recited 100,000 digits in 16.5 hours. The digit sequence of pi is random with no order or known pattern.  Haraguchi says of himself: “I’m certainly no genius, I’m just an ordinary old guy.” In addition, Haraguchi believes that memory can actually improve with age:

“When you are young, you look at the sky and think it’s a nice day. Then you might think, “I might as well go driving.” When you grow older, however, you start observing the sunlight and its reflection on leaves. You develop the ability to imagine more, which helps you associate things . . . A whole new different way of memorizing things becomes available when you get older.”

Demenita and anemia: Important finding; irresponsible reporting

2 Aug

A study published in the journal Nuerology reports that anemia, the name for a low red blood cell level,  may predict dementia in older adults. The author report a hazard ratio of 1.64, this means that an older person who receives a diagnosis of anemia is 1.64 as likely to develop dementia.

This in an important finding and does suggest that steps, such as vitamin B12 supplementation, might reduce the risk of dementia. However, the authors are quick to point out that this research is correlational and we can not say with certainty that treatment of anemia will reduce your risk of dementia until additional research is completed.

Some media, such as the New York Times, have covered this story accurately and responsibly. But other outlets have not. For example, U.S. Science News headlines the story this way:

“Eat steak to reduce risk of dementia, scientists claim”

In fact, the article actually contradicts itself advising you to eat steak at one point and advising you to eat a Mediterranean diet, which is a low in meat, at another. One site even advises you to eat liver to avoid dementia.

A meat centered diet is known to increase your risk of vascular dementia, so this is very dangerous advice. For good information on sources of B12 see this post by Dr. Greger.


%d bloggers like this: