Preliminary studies on mice show positive results.
- While the exact cause of Alzheimer's remains unknown, researchers are targeting toxic beta-amyloid buildup.
- A recent study on mice found oxytocin could be a protective agent against plaque buildup.
- Though more research needs to be conducted, this is a hopeful sign in our fight against a crippling disease.
Photo: Varlamova Lydmila / Shutterstock<p>As Eleftheria Kodosaki, an academic associate in Biomedical Sciences at Cardiff Metropolitan University, <a href="https://theconversation.com/could-love-hormone-oxytocin-help-treat-alzheimers-disease-heres-what-researchers-currently-know-143301" target="_blank">writes</a>, male mice were recently treated with the toxic beta-amyloid, resulting in the desired effect: their brain's synaptic plasticity suffered. The researchers then treated mice with the toxic beta-amyloid <em>and</em> oxytocin, which did not affect their neural plasticity. The team speculates that oxytocin may play a role in staving off memory loss.</p><p>That <i>may </i>is key. Kodosaki notes that this disease remains baffling. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"In theory, being able to stop groups of toxic beta-amyloid from forming could potentially prevent memory loss and cognitive decline. Unfortunately, Alzheimer's disease is way more complicated than just an accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain."</p><p>Plaque buildups have been discovered in people that don't have the disease or suffer from any symptoms. The beta-amyloid angle is only a theory, and there are others: as mentioned, genetics, as well as the <a href="https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0166223600020312" target="_blank">Tau hypothesis</a>. In 2002, researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry in De Crespigny Park, London speculated that tau proteins form neurofibrillary tangle inside of nerve cell bodies, resulting in the collapse of neuronal transport systems. </p><p>Kodaski points out that all medication targeting beta-amyloid has failed. She also notes that research needs to be conducted on female mice, as women are more likely to develop Alzheimer's than men. Of course, humans are not mice, though taking note of sex differences in mice might help researchers gauge potential therapies in humans. </p><p>As most studies conclude, more research is needed. But it is a hopeful sign for treating the frustrating realm of dementia. In an aging world with a <a href="https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/world-population-decline" target="_self">declining population</a>, we need to protect our seniors the best we can. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
It's never too late to start strengthening your brain.
- Cognitive reserve is your mind's ability to resist damage to your brain.
- Brain reserve refers to the brain structures that provide resilience against neurodegenerative diseases.
- A certain number of people with Alzheimer's pathology never show symptoms; there are methods for developing this skill.
What you can do to prevent Alzheimer's | Lisa Genova<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3aef60d1032ccdf21399b4dc62ff2f4b"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/twG4mr6Jov0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><h2>What is the physiology of brain reserve?</h2><p>The cerebellum is one brain structure that <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5609024/" target="_blank">contributes</a> to brain reserve. Located at the rear of the brain, the cerebellum plays an essential role in motor control in humans. It is also involved in attentional capabilities, emotional control, and language processing. Damage to this region can result in poor motor and postural control. </p><p>The cerebellum is also the brain region that <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5565264/" target="_blank">contains</a> the highest number of neurons. This is important as numerous forms of brain plasticity occur there. This is what allows the brain to "change itself," as psychiatrist Norman Doidge <a href="http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=1259" target="_blank">phrased it</a>. This skill—your brain's ability to change itself throughout your life through its ability to transfer functions to different regions—is the basis of cognitive reserve.</p><h2>How it protects against Alzheimer's and other dementias</h2><p>In a word: neuroplasticity. Doidge writes about a nun who, after suffering a stroke, continued to solve complex crossword puzzles until the day she died. There are other instances of teachers returning to work after having a stroke even though brain tissue associated with cognitive tasks has been destroyed. Their brains routed those tasks through other regions. People who are adept at any or all of the six skills below have a strong brain reserve, and therefore can recover from insults to the brain such as neurodegenerative disease. </p>
Photo by David Matos / Unsplash<h2>Six ways you can beef up your brain reserve </h2><p>As with anything, the earlier you begin best practices, the better. That said, there is evidence that neuroplasticity is possible at any age. Maintaining <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/coronavirus-immune-system" target="_self">optimal health</a> through exercise, diet, maintaining strong social ties, getting enough sleep, not smoking, and limiting alcohol use are always important for brain health. The following <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/6-simple-steps-to-keep-your-mind-sharp-at-any-age" target="_blank">six practices</a> can help you build a strong brain reserve. </p><h3>Never stop learning</h3><p>As noted above, one nun kept her brain healthy by doing crossword puzzles. Learning a new language or musical instrument have also been shown to help keep your brain working optimally. As with physical exercise, brain exercises keep your neural connections growing. Curiosity is an essential trait for maintaining strong brain health as well. Remaining curious is one of the strongest protective measures for staving off diseases of dementia. </p><h3>Sense matters</h3><p>Utilizing all of your senses is crucial. That means stopping to smell the flowers. That also means being a tactile toucher—well, maybe not at the <a href="https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/how-does-coronavirus-spread" target="_blank">current moment</a>, but in general. Listening to music is its own skill. Again, curiosity matters: if you're not an avid smeller, take a course in wine or perfumery. You're not only expanding a sense, you're helping strengthen your entire neurological structure. </p><h3>Have faith…in yourself</h3><p>Your relationship to aging matters. When middle-aged or older volunteers were exposed to negative stereotypes about aging, they performed worse on memory tasks. How you frame the inevitability of aging affects how you age. Resilience is a mindset. If you need inspiration, consider <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao_Porchon-Lynch" target="_blank">Tao Porchon-Lynch</a>, who continued teaching yoga and ballroom dancing until her recent death at the age of 101. Whenever I practiced with her, she would laugh and say age is only a number, and her life proved it. </p><h3>Make priorities </h3><p>While offloading memory to your phone can have detrimental effects, doing so in order to prioritize things you have to remember—or to free up cognitive space to learn new skills—is a great use of technology. Keep your life simple by letting repetitive tasks be on auto-pilot so you can engage new challenges with full attention.</p><h3>Say it aloud</h3><p>There's an old trick that sometimes works when meeting someone new: say their name three times to remember their name. Not as in, "John, John, John." That's a quick way to lose a potential new friend. Think, "Nice to meet you, John." A little later, "Where do you work, John?" When departing, "Take care, John, hope to see you again." This trick not only applies to new people, but with everything you know. By repeating a fact or idea aloud or by writing it down, you're more likely to imprint it to mind. </p><h3>Take your time</h3><p>In the above example, repeating "John" three straight times is less effective than saying it three times over five minutes. If you commit a factoid to memory, space out the time you repeat it. Cramming overnight for an exam never works; studying for a half-hour every day for a week does. Take your time learning new skills as well as recalling what you already know. Your memory will thank you. </p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a>. His next book is</em> "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</p>
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.
Photo by Agence Photographuqie BSIP / Getty Images<p>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 <a href="https://bigthink.com/gear/learn-a-language-2641539844" target="_blank">learning a language</a> or musical instruments help create new neural pathways (neurogenesis) at every age. Trying out new things keeps your brain healthy. </p><p>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 <a href="http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=1259" target="_blank">written about</a> 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. </p><p>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.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a>. His next book is "</em><em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em> </p>
Could Alzheimer's be prevented with a simple vaccine? This startup posits that it can.
Could Alzheimer's—a devastating degenerative disease that affects millions of people a year—be prevented with a simple vaccine? Lou Reese, the co-founder of start-up United Neuroscience, believes that it's a very real possibility that we could see within our lifetime. And it might even help us live longer, because as Lou puts it, "the largest gains in human longevity ever are debatably attributed to vaccine technology."
For older adults, playing video games isn't just a way for older adults to keep in touch with the younger generation — it might be also be a way to stay in touch with memory itself.
For older adults, playing video games isn't just a way to stay in touch with the younger generation — it might also be a way to stay in touch with perception itself.