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Being disagreeable shown to help fight Alzheimer's disease
Unique research out of Switzerland says be kind, just not too kind.
- Researchers from Switzerland followed 65 senior citizens over five years and tested their personality traits.
- Being curious and curmudgeonly appears to help stave off Alzheimer's disease.
- The researchers point to nonconformist attitudes as a potential trait that helps keep seniors independent.
While there have been many memorable (and quickly forgotten) moments in this election cycle, the NY Times interview with Bernie Sanders produced one of the most insightful clues to his character. "I'm not good at backslapping," he says. "I'm not good at pleasantries. If you have your birthday, I'm not going to call you up to congratulate you, so you'll love me and you'll write nice things about me. That's not what I do. Never have."
Sanders's supporters love his curmudgeonly nature as much as his one-pointed agenda focus. Maybe it's not nature as much as nurture, however. In fact, perhaps he's just been trying to protect himself from Alzheimer's disease.
Alright, that's probably not the reason, but as new research from Switzerland-based institutions, the University of Geneva and the University Hospitals of Geneva, claims, seniors that are a little rough around the edges socially seem to have a protective shield around their memories.
Alzheimer's is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. Up to 70 percent of dementia cases are due to this disease. Early onset involves forgetting recent events. As it progresses, victims become irritable, lose motivation, become easily disoriented, and have trouble expressing themselves. Thus far genetics seems to be the driving factor, though head injuries, diabetes, hypertension, and depression have all been implicated.
Researchers have tried to develop a vaccine or medicine to combat it for decades. Alzheimer's patients display excessive plaque buildup and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. While there are means for fighting it, including reading, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight, researchers have struggled to identify means for reversing it.
For this study, which will be published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, researchers followed a group of 65 senior citizens (aged 65 or older) for five years. During that period they repeatedly tested amyloid accumulation and brain deterioration. They also decided to monitor for nonbiological factors, such as cognitive aptitude and personality tests. It appears that curiosity and non-agreeableness are two traits shared by those who are best protected from the disease.
Professor Panteleimon Giannakopoulos, who directed this study, puts it best:
"A high level of agreeableness characterizes highly adaptive personalities, who want above all to be in line with the wishes of others, to avoid conflict, and to seek cooperation. This differs from extraversion. You can be very extroverted and not very pleasant, as are narcissistic personalities, for example. The important determinant is the relationship to the other: do we adapt to others at our own expenses?"
Photo by Agence Photographuqie BSIP / Getty Images
Seniors that refuse to conform with the pack seem better equipped to combat the ravages of dementia. Being open to new experiences also proves effective. This makes sense, given that groupthink often dictates stability and reliability. We already know that exercises like learning a language or musical instruments help create new neural pathways (neurogenesis) at every age. Trying out new things keeps your brain healthy.
Just as Alzheimer's is progressive, it appears that therapeutic methods involving novelty or consistent learning helps keep brains strong even after neurological insults. The psychiatrist Norman Doidge has written about a nonagenarian nun that, after suffering a stroke that destroyed a large part of her brain, maintained perfect cognitive health by reading and doing crossword puzzles every day. During her autopsy doctors noticed a large region of her brain tissue was dead. She was able to co-opt other regions through sheer perseverance.
While Giannakopoulos and his team do not know why these qualities seem to reduce risk, they plan on continuing this research. They admit that changing one's personality, especially at an advanced age, is extremely challenging. That said, you can change your brain at any age. We should aim to keep it as healthy as possible for as long as possible. It seems that the best way to do this is to stay curious and be kind—just not too kind.
Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.
- The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
- Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
The value of forecasting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTA0Njk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzM2NDQzOH0.rid9regiDaKczCCKBsu7wrHkNQ64Vz_XcOEZIzAhzgM/img.jpg?width=980" id="2bb93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31345afbdf2bd408fd3e9f31520c445a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1546" data-height="1056" />
Northwell emergency departments use the dashboard to monitor in real time.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>One unique benefit of forecasting COVID-19 hospitalizations is that it allows health systems to better prepare, manage and allocate resources. For example, if the tool forecasted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in two weeks, Northwell Health could begin:</p><ul><li>Making space for an influx of patients</li><li>Moving personal protective equipment to where it's most needed</li><li>Strategically allocating staff during the predicted surge</li><li>Increasing the number of tests offered to asymptomatic patients</li></ul><p>The health-care field is increasingly using machine learning. It's already helping doctors develop <a href="https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2020/06/09/dc19-1870" target="_blank">personalized care plans for diabetes patients</a>, improving cancer screening techniques, and enabling mental health professionals to better predict which patients are at <a href="https://healthitanalytics.com/news/ehr-data-fuels-accurate-predictive-analytics-for-suicide-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevated risk of suicide</a>, to name a few applications.</p><p>Health systems around the world have already begun exploring how <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7315944/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">machine learning can help battle the pandemic</a>, including better COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, contact tracing, and drug and vaccine development.</p><p>Cruzen said these kinds of tools represent a shift in how health systems can tackle a wide variety of problems.</p><p>"Health care has always used the past to predict the future, but not in this mathematical way," Cruzen said. "I think [Northwell Health's new predictive tool] really is a great first example of how we should be attacking a lot of things as we go forward."</p>
Making machine-learning tools openly accessible<p>Northwell Health has made its predictive tool <a href="https://github.com/northwell-health/covid-web-data-predictor" target="_blank">available for free</a> to any health system that wishes to utilize it.</p><p>"COVID is everybody's problem, and I think developing tools that can be used to help others is sort of why people go into health care," Dr. Cruzen said. "It was really consistent with our mission."</p><p>Open collaboration is something the world's governments and health systems should be striving for during the pandemic, said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's president and CEO.</p><p>"Whenever you develop anything and somebody else gets it, they improve it and they continue to make it better," Dowling said. "As a country, we lack data. I believe very, very strongly that we should have been and should be now working with other countries, including China, including the European Union, including England and others to figure out how to develop a health surveillance system so you can anticipate way in advance when these things are going to occur."</p><p>In all, Northwell Health has treated more than 112,000 COVID patients. During the pandemic, Dowling said he's seen an outpouring of goodwill, collaboration, and sacrifice from the community and the tens of thousands of staff who work across Northwell.</p><p>"COVID has changed our perspective on everything—and not just those of us in health care, because it has disrupted everybody's life," Dowling said. "It has demonstrated the value of community, how we help one another."</p>
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.
- Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
- The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
- The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a9734e306f0914bfdcbe79a1e317a7f0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/b-wAYtBxn7E?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.