Being Bi-Lingual Could Avert Alzheimer’s by 5 Years

November 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Health, Healthy Ageing, Medical Research & Studies

There are many suggested ways to delay or even avert Alzheimer’s and they usually revolve around staying mentally active. Now new research from Canada has found more dramatic evidence that speaking two languages can help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms by as much as five years.

The latest study examined the clinical records of more than 200 patients diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s disease and found that those who have spoken two or more languages consistently over many years experienced a delay in the onset of their symptoms by as much as five years. Dual language capability is not uncommon in Canada where many speak both English and French and the science team are not claiming that bilingualism in any way prevents Alzheimer’s or other dementias. What they are saying is that it may contribute to cognitive reserve in the brain which appears to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms for quite some time.

The lead investigator is Dr. Craik who is also co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Memory and he clarified that the brains of people who speak two languages still show deterioration from Alzheimer’s, however their special ability with two languages seems to equip them with compensatory skills to hold back the tell-tale symptoms of Alzheimer’s, such as memory loss, confusion, and difficulties with problem-solving and planning.

The researchers found that bilingual patients had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 4.3 years later and had reported the onset of symptoms five years later than the patients who spoke only one language. Interestingly, there was no apparent effect of immigration status, and there were no gender differences.

The current study adds to mounting scientific evidence that lifestyle factors – such as regular cardiovascular exercise, a healthy diet, and keeping mentally alert – can play a central role in how the brain copes with age-related cognitive decline and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

“Although a great deal of research is being focused on the development of new and more effective medications for Alzheimer’s disease, there are currently no drug treatments that show any effects on delaying Alzheimer’s symptoms, let alone delaying the onset of these symptoms by up to five years,” said Dr. Freedman, head of Neurology and director of the Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic at Baycrest.

That being the case it might be time to dust off the Linguaphone records, or sign up for a language class at your local adult education centre. Chinese ought to be difficult enough to stir the brain cells into action!

Two Simple Ways To Achieve A Better Memory And Avoid Cognitive Impairment

November 3, 2010 by  
Filed under Health, Healthy Ageing, Mental Health

What if I told you that keeping your mind sharp and your faculties in top notch condition could be achieved without any great effort, and you might even enjoy it? Well, I hope you would be tempted to try it and the most recent research offers great hope on how we can stay lively and alert and it works whether you are a student or retired so keep reading…

The first method is something you are no doubt already doing if you enjoy talking to others in a social setting. Of course most of us do, but a new University of Michigan study shows that talking with other people in a friendly way can make it easier to solve common problems can provide mental benefits according to psychologist Oscar Ybarra, a researcher at the U-M Institute for Social Research.
But, and there is always a but isn’t there, the emphasis is on friendly because conversations that are competitive in tone, rather than cooperative, have no cognitive benefits and indeed have negative results in terms of raising blood pressure and possibly losing said friends.

Cognitive function includes working memory, self-monitoring, and the ability to suppress external and internal distractions — all of which are essential in solving common life problems and succeeding at the bridge table. Previous research has found that social interaction provides a short-term boost to cognitive function that’s comparable in size to playing brain games, such as solving crossword puzzles.

Even having just a brief 10 minute conversation where you are getting to know another person can result in a boost to your subsequent performance on an array of common cognitive tasks. All very nice, and enjoyable, but why or how does it work?

“We believe that performance boosts come about because some social interactions induce people to try to read others’ minds and take their perspectives on things,” Ybarra said. “And we also find that when we structure even competitive interactions to have an element of taking the other person’s perspective, or trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, there is a boost in executive functioning as a result.”

What this highlights is the connection between social intelligence and general intelligence and so if you want to perform your best, having a friendly chat with a colleague before a big presentation or test may be a good strategy.

A second approach:
Many people are already aware that the B-Complex vitamins help us when stressed, indeed they are a popular element in stress supplements together with vitamin C, and new research now shows they may also help to slow the progress of dementia.

A two-year clinical trial in Oxford has shown that B vitamins, including B-6, B-12 and folic acid, slow down the rate of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) by half. MCI is a condition which is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia as approximately 50 percent of people diagnosed with MCI go on to develop Alzheimer’s within five years

Scientists from Oxford University said their two-year clinical trial was the largest to date and David Smith of Oxford’s department of pharmacology, who co-led the trial, said: ”It is our hope that this simple and safe treatment will delay development of Alzheimer’s in many people who suffer from mild memory problems.”

MCI does not usually interfere with daily life, but around 50 percent of people diagnosed with it go on to develop the far more severe Alzheimer’s disease within five years. Smith and colleagues conducted a two-year trial with 168 volunteers with MCI who were given either a vitamin pill containing very high doses of folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, or a placebo dummy pill.

These B vitamins are known to control levels of an amino acid called homocysteine in the blood, and high blood levels of homocysteine are linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Brain scans were taken at the beginning and the end of the trial to monitor the rate of brain shrinkage, or atrophy.

Dr. Gustavo C. Román, medical director of the Alzheimer & Dementia Center at the Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston, Texas, said that patients who already exhibit signs of dementia and test positive for high levels of homocysteine are more likely to respond well to the large doses of B vitamins.

CAUTION: If you want to try this for yourself, please be aware that the trial involved extremely high doses that have to be closely medically monitored so do not self dose at anything over the recommended levels without medical advice.

As a preventive, adding a high potency vitamin B complex to your daily routine can’t hurt and could be extremely helpful.

Forget brain training – This simple exercise can work wonders for your memory

October 13, 2010 by  
Filed under At Home, Health

If you think the Internet is a lot of fluff and nonsense — or full of useless trivia — then this piece of information might change your mind. CBS News in Los Angeles featured an unusual exercise to improve mental health and acuity that has created positive results for learning disabled and autistic children as well as older Alzheimer’s victims and the rest of us whose memory can occasionally leave home and leave us wondering why we are standing in the middle of the spare room.

The exercise was introduced by pranic healing Master Koa Chok Sui’s book SuperBrain Yoga and taught by him personally on lecture tours. Prana is another word for Chi, the subtle life force energy that surrounds and permeates the body and the basis of Eastern medicine and practices such as Qi Gong and yoga.

If you still think that’s fluff then you will be surprised to learn it has been endorsed by doctors, a Yale neurobiologist, an occupational therapist, educators, and parents and has gone viral on the internet.. It is a simple routine, and useful for any kind of brain fog or dullness, even emotional instability, and might even make you laugh as well.

It can improve memory and focus, and it’s even made some a little smarter – memo to self, forward this on to the Houses of Parliament, and it seems to work for everyone regardless of mental condition (second reminder to self re the above).

Here’s how to do it
This exercise is suitable for any age but please monitor and respect your own personal level of fitness.

With your feet pointing straight ahead, spread them apart about shoulder width. Grab your right earlobe with the thumb and finger of your left hand. Cross over your left arm and do the same using your right hand on the left earlobe.

Then squat as fully as you can, breathing in. That’s a little counter intuitive, as well as making you feel ridiculous, but that’s apparently what you do.

The breathing needs to be synchronized with the squats, so breathe in as you squat and breathe out as you stand. The instruction is to do this on a loop for three minutes, though I suspect that most of us will start out with one minute and work up. On bad days it might even be 30 seconds, but you can apparently continue for as long as five minutes if you wish to — and your thighs can hold out.

You keep doing this every day until you can feel that mental fog drifting away and certainly you will be able see an improvement in your final sort!

How It Works
According to Los Angeles physician Dr. Eric Robins, the brain cells and neurons are energized with this simple exercise and he certainly has seen good results from his own patients. He gives the example of a youngster doing poorly in school who was given the exercise to do and went on to become an A student.

If you are wondering what the earlobes had to do with it than this explanation from Yale neurobiologist Dr. Eugenius Ang might help. The earlobes grabbed are acupuncture points that stimulate neural pathways in the brain. The brain’s hemispheres are in opposite sides of the earlobes and using opposite hands for pinching the earlobes may have something to do with the way our subtle energies are arranged.

Still too new age and fluffy for you? Well, Ang showed that the results from EEG readings after doing this exercise indicate the right and left hemispheres of the brain had become synchronized. EEG readings measure the neuron firings in the brain via electrodes on the scalp, and are used to determine brain wave normalcies and abnormalities.

Apparently this is the same effect that subliminal sound recordings (as in many new-age CDs) have attempted to do by producing subliminal sounds to the brain attached to audible sounds through a headset. Dr. Ang believes firmly that this exercise really does achieve the brain being actually lateralized, which is apparently an ideal hemispheric arrangement.

What’s more he performs the exercise daily, so if it’s good enough for Yale, then surely it’s worth giving it a try? If you do, I would love to hear how you have got on with it.

Oh really? Having enough sleep may reduce mistakes in memory!

October 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Strange But True


We haven’t had one of these for a while but I always like to know that out there somewhere science never sleeps – especially if someone is paying them to research it.

Sleep is the subject here because Kimberley Fenn, a cognitive neuroscientist at Michigan State University, has studied on this and come to the conclusion that having enough sleep may reduce mistakes in memory.

No, really? If you don’t get enough sleep you are not going to be as sharp or able to remember things as well as if you got your full quota – don’t snicker, this lady got a lot of money to research this.

While previous research has shown that sleep improves memory, this study is the first to address errors in memory and although it isn’t known how sleep helps with this that hasn’t deterred Kimberley Fenn as she believes that further research is warranted, and plans to study different population groups, particularly the elderly, as she believes this could potentially improve their quality of life in some way.

Trust me, I do not make this up!