Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Working with Healthcare Stakeholders towards Brain-Based Personalized Medicine

(Editor’s Note: this is Part 3 of the new 3-part series written by Dr. Evian Gordon drawing from his participation at the Personalized Medicine World Congress on January, 23, 2012 at Stanford University.)

Working with Health Care Industry Stakeholders: Clinicians, Pharma/Biotech, Payers, PBMs, Lawyers, Medicare, FDA

Clinicians seek clear validated “rules of thumb” that can be easily implemented and fit into their workflow and reimbursement regime. Many are exploring “Clinical Decision Support (CDS)” tools on the web and solutions linked to “Electronic Health Records” (EHR’s). CDC and EHR’s are seeding the ground for clinicians to adopt robust Biomarkers that are shown to be unambiguously clinically relevant.

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Report: Cognitive Testing Program Fails Soldiers, Leaving Brain Injuries Undetected

Testing Program Fails Soldiers, Leaving Brain Injuries Undetected (ProPublica):

“In 2007, with roadside bombs exploding across Iraq, Congress moved to improve care for soldiers who had suffered one of the war’s signature wounds, traumatic brain injury.

Lawmakers passed a measure requiring the military to test soldiers’ brain function before they deployed and again when they returned. The test was supposed to ensure that soldiers received proper treatment.

Instead, an investigation by ProPublica and NPR has found, the testing program has failed to deliver on its promise, offering soldiers the appearance of help, but not the reality. Read the rest of this entry »

Alzheimer’s Early and Accurate Diagnosis: Normal Aging vs. Alzheimer’s Disease

(Editor’s Note: I recently came across an excellent book and resource, The Alzheimer’s Alzheimer's Disease Action PlanAction Plan: The Experts’ Guide to the Best Diagnosis and Treatment for Memory Problems, just released in paperback. Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, one of the authors and leading Alzheimer’s expert, kindly helped us create a 2-part article series to share with SharpBrains readers advice on a very important question, “How can we help the public at large to distinguish Alzheimer’s Disease from normal aging — so that an interest in early identification doesn’t translate into unneeded worries?” What follows is an excerpt from the book, pages 3-8).

Jane, fifty-seven, managed a large sales force. She prided herself on being good at names, and introductions were easy for her—until last spring when she referred to Barbara as Betty at a meeting and had to correct herself. She started noticing that her memory wasn’t as dependable as it once was—she had to really try to remember names and dates. Her mother had developed Alzheimer’s in her late seventies, so Jane entertained a wide array of worries: Is this just aging? Is it because of menopause? Is it early Alzheimer’s? Did her coworkers or family notice her slips? Should she ask them? Should she see a doctor, and if so, which doctor? Would she really want to know if she was getting Alzheimer’s? Would she lose her job, health insurance, or friends if she did have Alzheimer’s?

As it turns out, Jane did not have Alzheimer’s. She consulted a doctor, who, in docspeak, told her that the passage of time (getting older) had taken a slight toll on her once-superquick memory. She was slowing down a little, and if she relaxed, the name or date or other bit of information she needed would come to her soon enough. She was still good at her job and home life. She had simply joined the ranks of the worried well.

Normal brain aging, beginning as early as the forties in some people, may include:

  • Taking longer to learn or remember information
  • Having difficulty paying attention or concentrating in the midst of distractions
  • Forgetting such basics as an anniversary or the names of friends
  • Needing more reminders or memory cues, such as prominent appointment calendars, reminder notes, a phone with a wellstocked speed dial

Although they may need some assistance, older people without a mental disorder retain their ability to do their errands, handle money, find their way to familiar areas, and behave appropriately.

How does this compare to a person with Alzheimer’s? When Alzheimer’s slows the brain’s machinery, people begin to lose their ability to Read the rest of this entry »

Education builds Cognitive Reserve for Alzheimers Disease Protection

Given the growing media coverage mentioning the terms Cognitive Reserve and Brain Reserve, you may be asking yourself, “What exactly is my Cognitive (or Brain) Reserve?”

The cognitive reserve hypothesis, tested in multiple studies, states that individuals with more cognitive reserve can experience more Alzheimer’s disease pathology in the brain (more plaques and tangles) without developing Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

How does that work? Scientists are not sure but two possibilities are considered.
1. One is that more cognitive reserve means more brain reserve, that is more neurons and connections (synapses) between neurons. Individuals with more synapses would then have more synapses to lose before the critical threshold for Alzheimer’s Disease is reached.
2. Another possibility is that more cognitive reserve means more compensatory processes. The brain of individuals with more cognitive reserve would use more alternative networks to compensate for the damages caused by the pathology in previously used networks.

In a newly published study, Roe and colleagues brain fitness event from Washington University in St. Louis, used the number of years of education as a measure of cognitive reserve. Why years of education? Because previous studies have shown that people who have more education also exhibit a greater resistance to Alzheimer’s symptoms, even while pathological changes are occurring in the brain (see Bennett el al., 2003 or Roe, Xiong, et al., 2008).

Roe and her colleagues studied 198 individuals whose mean age was 67. Out of these 198 individuals, 161 were nondemented and 37 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

All the participants in the study took a Read the rest of this entry »

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