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Vitamin B against Alzheimer’s? Too early to tell.

An inter­est­ing and very well-doc­u­ment­ed arti­cle in the Los Ange­les Times reviews stud­ies look­ing at Vit­a­min B and its role in improv­ing mem­o­ry.

The vit­a­mins — includ­ing folic acid and vit­a­mins B6 and B12 — are often tout­ed as a way to improve mem­o­ry and stave off cog­ni­tive decline. The claims are based on the find­ing that lev­els of the vit­a­min are low in peo­ple with var­i­ous forms of cog­ni­tive impair­ment Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive stimulation is beneficial, even after diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

An inter­est­ing arti­cle in Nature Reviews last month reviewed sev­er­al stud­ies show­ing that cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tion can be ben­e­fi­cial even for indi­vid­u­als already diag­nosed with Alzheimer’s Dis­ease (Buschert et al., 2010).

The arti­cle shows that patients with mild-to-mod­er­ate demen­tia can ben­e­fit from a range of cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tions: from train­ing of par­tial­ly spared cog­ni­tive func­tions to train­ing on activ­i­ties of dai­ly liv­ing. Results sug­gest that such inter­ven­tions can improve glob­al cog­ni­tion, abil­i­ties of dai­ly liv­ing and qual­i­ty of life in these patients.

Patients with mod­er­ate-to-severe demen­tia seem to ben­e­fit from gen­er­al engage­ment in activ­i­ties that enhance cog­ni­tive and social func­tion­ing in a non-spe­cif­ic man­ner.

In gen­er­al, for patients diag­nosed with Alzheimer’s Dis­ease, the reviewed stud­ies sug­gest that pro­grams focus­ing on glob­al cog­ni­tive stim­u­la­tion are more effec­tive than pro­grams that train spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive func­tions.

The oppo­site seems true for peo­ple diag­nosed with Mild Cog­ni­tive Impair­ment (MCI). As you may remem­ber, MCI diag­no­sis is made upon objec­tive mem­o­ry deficits that do not inter­fere with activ­i­ties of dai­ly liv­ing. 5 to 10% of peo­ple with MCI devel­op demen­tia with­in 1 year after being diag­nosed.

It is inter­est­ing to see that the type of cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tion one may ben­e­fit from changes over the years, depend­ing on one’s cog­ni­tive sta­tus. This shows once again that there is no gen­er­al mag­ic pill in terms of brain fit­ness: Some inter­ven­tions or pro­grams work because they meet the needs of some spe­cif­ic indi­vid­u­als. No pro­gram can work for every­body.

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Dr. Art Kramer on Why We Need Walking Book Clubs to Enhance Cognitive Fitness and Brain Health

Art KramerDr. Arthur Kramer is a Pro­fes­sor in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois Depart­ment of Psy­chol­o­gy, the Cam­pus Neu­ro­science Pro­gram, the Beck­man Insti­tute, and the Direc­tor of the Bio­med­ical Imag­ing Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois.

I am hon­ored to inter­view him today.

Dr. Kramer, thank you for your time. Let’ start by try­ing to clar­i­fy some exist­ing mis­con­cep­tions and con­tro­ver­sies. Based on what we know today, and your recent Nature piece (ref­er­enced below), what are the 2–3 key lifestyle habits would you sug­gest to a per­son who wants to delay Alzheimer’s symp­toms and improve over­all brain health?

First, Be Active. Do phys­i­cal exer­cise. Aer­o­bic exer­cise, 30 to 60 min­utes per day 3 days per week, has been shown to have an impact in a vari­ety of exper­i­ments. And you don’t need to do some­thing stren­u­ous: even walk­ing has shown that effect. There are many open ques­tions in terms of spe­cif­ic types of exer­cise, dura­tion, mag­ni­tude of effect but, as we wrote in our recent Nature Reviews Neu­ro­science arti­cle, there is lit­tle doubt that lead­ing a seden­tary life is bad for our cog­ni­tive health. Car­dio­vas­cu­lar exer­cise seems to have a pos­i­tive effect.

Sec­ond, Main­tain Life­long Intel­lec­tu­al Engage­ment. There is abun­dant prospec­tive obser­va­tion­al research show­ing that doing more men­tal­ly stim­u­lat­ing activ­i­ties reduces the risk of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s symp­toms.

Let me add, giv­en all media hype, that no “brain game” in par­tic­u­lar has been shown to have a long-term impact on Alzheimer’s or the main­te­nance of cog­ni­tion across extend­ed peri­ods of time. It is too ear­ly for that-and con­sumers should be aware of that fact. It is true that some com­pa­nies are being more sci­ence-based than oth­ers but, in my view, the con­sumer-ori­ent­ed field is grow­ing faster than the research is.

Ide­al­ly, com­bine both phys­i­cal and men­tal stim­u­la­tion along with social inter­ac­tions. Why not take a good walk with friends to dis­cuss a book? We lead very busy lives, so the more inte­grat­ed and inter­est­ing activ­i­ties are, the more like­ly we will do them.

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