A new study claims that mild to moderate memory loss, or mental decline, in adulthood can be attributed to abnormal brain lesions associated with Alzheimer’s. In other words, a decrease in mental acuity may not be a result of mere aging. The research was led by Robert S. Wilson, senior neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Center at Rush University Medical Center. The 16 year study focused on a group of 354 catholic nuns, priests and brothers; over the course of the study, the participants were regularly checked for mental acuity up to 14 times before they died. Specifically, they were checked in the following areas: verbal fluency, perceptual speed and IQ. Additional three “types” of memory were assessed:
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Entries in Brain (30)
Smart People Thinking about People Thinking about People Thinking - MIT's Rebecca Saxe probes mechanics of judgment, beliefs
How do we know what other people are thinking? How do we judge them, and what happens in our brains when we do? MIT neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe is tackling those tough questions and many others. Her goal is no less than understanding how the brain gives rise to the abilities that make us uniquely human–making moral judgments, developing belief systems and understanding language. It’s a huge task, but “different chunks of it can be bitten off in different ways,” she says. Saxe, who joined MIT’s faculty in 2006 as an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences, specializes in social cognition–how people interpret other people’s thoughts. It’s a difficult subject to get at, since people’s thoughts and beliefs can’t be observed directly.
The science of spirituality has become something of a hot topic in the past few decades. Some of this may be because the absolutist rational materialism that dominated much of the twentieth century has given way to something slightly more flexible. But mostly, it is because we finally have the advanced imaging technology — fMRI and SPECT scans and the like — to actually peer inside the brain and find out what is going on during so-called spiritual experience. No one has peered deeper than the Director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Andrew Newberg. During his career, Newberg examined the brains of Tibetan monks during peak meditation, Franciscan nuns during ecstatic prayer, Evangelicals in the throes of glossolalia — all with an eye towards understanding how brain function produces mystical experience. His books include How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist and Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief.
Scholars have suspected for decades that the aging process is kinder to the creative, active, and flexible mind. Now there is more convincing evidence than ever before to support the importance of keeping an open mind to helping your brain age successfully. In a recent scientific article, psychologists Susan McFadden and Anne Basting point out that "What's good for the person is usually good for the brain." They note that the more diverse the older person's social network, the greater the resistance to infection and disease, and the less the cognitive decline. It's not just the plain fact that you have many friends, but that if you have many friends, the chances are good that you are engaging in a variety of cognitively enriching activities.
Mice trained to improve their working memory become more intelligent, suggesting that similar improvements in working memory might help human beings enhance their brain power, according to research published March 26 in Current Biology by researchers at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. "Working memory refers to a short-term memory system used to complete a task, such as remembering a phone number, a grocery list, reading comprehension, or something else not intended to be stored in long-term memory," says corresponding author Louis Matzel, professor of psychology in Rutgers' School of Arts and Sciences. Working with about 60 young adult, genetically heterogeneous mice, Matzel and his colleagues used mazes to put the mice through a series of exercises designed to challenge and improve their ability to retain and use current spatial information. For example, they would allow a mouse to run through a particular maze (for a food reward) until he had the route down cold, and then teach him to run through a second maze. The researchers would then start the mouse on his way through the first maze, stop him en route and stick him in the second maze.