MetLife released a new study stating that elderly adults who aged successfully between the ages of 50 to 70 years-old are more likely to retain complex decision making skills and in some cases are more likely to gain cognitive skills as they age. Past studies have shown that most older adults’ cognitive thinking skills decline with age while MetLife’s study may show exceptions for some seniors. More here
A study published in the Journal of Neurosciences states that being bilingual from an early age is good for the aging mind. Elderly adults who are bilingual have more “brain power” which may slow the decline of age-related problems in the brain such as thinking process and memory. The study also shows signs that bilingual adults are less likely to suffer from diseases effecting the mind such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. More here
Johns Hopkins Medicine Center has conducted a ground-breaking surgical procedure that involves implanting a pacemaker-like device in the brain of patients who suffer from early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The first procedure took place in November of last year and was part of a federally funded, multicenter clinical trial attempting to slow or halt the disease. The device has possibilities to boost memory and reverse cognitive decline. More here
A gradual decline in muscle strength is part of the natural aging process. And, though keeping physically fit is the primary defense against weaker muscles, a new study from the Society for Experimental Biology has found that caffeine may also help boost power in older muscles. The study, which theorized that caffeine would have the same power-inducing effect on elderly muscles as it does in younger adults, found that it did aid in keeping older muscles stronger, though to a lesser degree. Jason Tallis, the study’s primary author, said that, along with maintaining a physically active lifestyle, the performance enhancing benefit of caffeine could prove beneficial in the aging population. More here.
It’s been estimated that nearly 40 percent of adults have trouble sleeping. And, according to a new study from the University of California, San Francisco, insomnia and other common sleep disorders may lead to an increased risk of developing dementia and cognitive decline. The study examined 1,300 adults over the age of 75, first assessing their sleep patterns and then their cognitive ability at a five-year follow up. The results showed that individuals with sleep-disordered breathing, sleep apnea, and disruptions of their circadian rhythms were up to twice as likely to have developed dementia after five years. Researchers caution, however, that their findings only show an association and more study would be needed before a definitive link was established between trouble sleeping and cognitive decline. More here.
Ginkgo biloba has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years and, more recently, has been sold as a dietary supplement aimed at helping prevent memory loss and improving focus and mental sharpness. But, according to new research from the University of Hertfordshire, taking gingko biloba supplements provided no such boost to memory regardless of the age and health of the individual. Keith Laws, professor of psychology, said ginkgo biloba promises to reduce the mental decline associated with aging but the results of the study show it has no impact at all. Ginkgo biloba is one of the most popular plant-based products available without a prescription in North America, though a number of recent studies have found no evidence to support its effectiveness. More here.
New research from the University of Hertfordshire found that women with Alzheimer’s disease tend to deteriorate faster than men with the disease. The paper, published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, discovered men consistently scored higher on a series of cognitive tests and outperformed women in verbal and visuospatial tasks. Keith Laws, professor of psychology, said Alzheimer’s specifically disadvantages women, unlike with normal aging where women tend to decline more slowly than men. Alzheimer’s disease, according to current estimates, affects 30 million people worldwide with 4.6 million new cases every year. Women are more prone to the disease than men, though the reason behind the gender-based differences in decline are unknown. More here.
Older honeybees have the ability to reverse brain aging when they are given tasks normally reserved for much younger bees, according to new research from Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences. While bees are in the hive caring for their larvae, they can maintain mental competence. But, once they leave the hive to gather food, they begin to age rapidly. The study, however, removed younger bees from the hive and found, when the older bees began doing the work of younger bees, they were able to significantly improve their ability to learn new things. The researchers believe this ability is tied to a change in proteins in the bees’ brain. The research, though unable to translate directly to humans, suggests that keeping active, social, and mentally challenged may help preserve brain function and prevent aging. More here and here.
For the most part, science has concentrated on understanding how the brain adapts and changes during age-related cognitive decline. But, more recently, research has proven that some of the cognitive decline once thought of as unavoidable can, in fact, be avoided. A study from Sweden recently published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences says that staying physically, socially, and mentally active in old age is more important to preserving brain function than past habits and experiences. Higher education and a demanding career is no guarantee against memory loss but staying engaged and active in old age can keep the brain youthful. The researchers say older adults who are active can show little or no brain changes compared to younger adults, which supports the theory that preserving and maintaining brain function is the key to successful aging, rather than compensating for cognitive decline. More here.
Research shows that in the two or three years before death our mental ability deteriorates faster than it does during the normal aging process. And though there has yet to be an explanation of this phenomenon, a recent study analyzed 174 people who began taking part in a medical research project in 1997 and found that participants’ cognitive abilities declined 17 times faster in the two and a half years before death. Robert Wilson, professor of neurological sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and lead author of the study, said Alzheimer’s disease may explain some of the decline but other unknown factors may also be playing a role. Staying mentally active, however, seems to ward off some of the cognitive decline seen during this end of life period. The brains of people who were mentally engaged, through activities such as board games, reading or crossword puzzles, were found to have better preserved their cognitive abilities. More here.