Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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One more study shows “brain supplements” don’t work to enhance brain health and function

Omega 3 supplementsWhy Can’t Fish Oil Sup­ple­ments Keep Our Brains Sharp? (NPR):

…why is it that a new study of old­er women pub­lished in the jour­nal Neu­rol­o­gy finds that omega-3s may not ben­e­fit think­ing skills or help fend off cog­ni­tive decline?…As study author Eric Ammann, of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Iowa, points out in an email, “most ran­dom­ized tri­als of omega‑3 sup­ple­ments have not found an effect on cog­ni­tive func­tion.” Read the rest of this entry »

SharpBrains Council Monthly Insights: How will we assess, enhance and repair cognition across the lifespan?

When you think of how the PC has altered the fab­ric of soci­ety, per­mit­ting instant access to infor­ma­tion and automat­ing process­es beyond our wildest dreams, it is instruc­tive to con­sid­er that much of this progress was dri­ven by Moore’s law. Halv­ing the size of semi­con­duc­tor every 18 months catal­ysed an expo­nen­tial accel­er­a­tion in per­for­mance.

Why is this sto­ry rel­e­vant to mod­ern neu­ro­science and the work­ings of the brain? Because trans­for­ma­tive tech­no­log­i­cal progress aris­es out of choice and the actions of indi­vid­u­als who see poten­tial for change, and we may well be on the verge of such progress. Read the rest of this entry »

SharpBrains Council Weekly Update: 54 Members, Events, Industry, Research, Ideas

Let me pro­vide an overview of the great things going on with the Sharp­Brains Coun­cil for Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion — start­ing this week, we will share a brief update like this every Fri­day to main­tain Sharp­Brains col­leagues and read­ers informed. Please note that all links below require access to the Coun­cil’s online plat­form.

Coun­cil Mem­ber­ship
We have 54 Coun­cil Mem­bers right now (47 are already active in the Coun­cil’s online plat­form). To help Mem­bers quick­ly see who we all are and what we are inter­est­ed in, there is a Mem­ber List avail­able in the Library.
This week, based on lev­el of Coun­cil par­tic­i­pa­tion and on hav­ing a nice pro­file pic, we are fea­tur­ing 7 Coun­cil Mem­bers: Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, Philip Toman, Jamie Wil­son, Luc Beau­doin, Joshua Stein­er­man, Adam Gaz­za­ley and Sher­rie All. Read the rest of this entry »

No effects of omega‑3 supplements on Alzheimer’s symptoms

The L.A. Times reports today the neg­a­tive results of the lat­est ran­dom­ized tri­al test­ing the effects of DHA sup­ple­ments on Alzheimer’s symp­toms (DHA is an omega‑3 fat­ty acid).

The study … exam­ined 402 peo­ple with mild to mod­er­ate Alzheimer’s. They were ran­dom­ly assigned to take 2 grams a day of omega‑3 cap­sules con­tain­ing docosa­hexaenoic acid (or DHA) or a place­bo cap­sule. The par­tic­i­pants were fol­lowed for 18 months, and their cog­ni­tive and func­tion­al abil­i­ties were reassessed. They also under­went MRI to look at the brain.

There was no ben­e­fit seen in the patients tak­ing omega‑3 fat­ty-acid sup­ple­ments in either brain vol­ume or cog­ni­tive func­tion.

Com­ments: Does this study mean that DHA or omega‑3 in gen­er­al are not good for the brain? No! This study sug­gests that tak­ing DHA sup­ple­ments after Alzheimer’s diag­no­sis is not help­ful. Pri­or evi­dence shows that omega‑3 con­sump­tion (espe­cial­ly DHA) long before the onset of Alzheimer’s symp­toms reduces the risk of devel­op­ing the dis­ease. Indeed, sev­er­al stud­ies have shown that eat­ing fish (the pri­ma­ry source in our diet of omega‑3 fat­ty acids) is asso­ci­at­ed with a reduced risk of cog­ni­tive decline or demen­tia.

The authors of the JAMA study also spec­u­late that DHA sup­ple­ments could be used as a treat­ment for peo­ple who have not yet been diag­nosed with Alzheimer’s but are already devel­op­ing demen­tia pathol­o­gy in their brain: “Indi­vid­u­als inter­me­di­ate between healthy aging and demen­tia, such as those with mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment, might derive ben­e­fit from DHA sup­ple­men­ta­tion, although fur­ther study will be nec­es­sary to test this hypoth­e­sis.” 

Can food improve brain health?

In oth­er words, may some foods be specif­i­cal­ly good for brain func­tion?

For a great in-depth review of the effects of food on the brain you can check out Fer­nan­do Gomez-Pinil­la’s recent arti­cle in Nature Reviews Neu­ro­science (ref­er­ence below). Here is an overview of the state off the research.

Sev­er­al com­po­nents of diet seem to have a pos­i­tive effect on brain func­tion.

Omega‑3 fat­ty acids

These acids are nor­mal con­stituents of cell mem­branes and are essen­tial for nor­mal brain func­tion. Omega‑3 fat­ty acids can be found in fish (salmon), kiwi, and wal­nuts. Docosa­hexaenoic acid, or DHA, is the most abun­dant omega‑3 fat­ty acid in cell mem­branes in the brain. The human body pro­duces DHA but not enough. So we are depen­dent on the DHA that we get from what we eat.

A ran­dom­ized dou­ble-blind con­trolled tri­al (which means seri­ous­ly con­duct­ed sci­en­tif­ic study) is cur­rent­ly look­ing at the effect of tak­ing omega‑3 fat­ty acids on chil­dren’s per­for­mance at school in Eng­land. Pre­lim­i­nary results (Port­wood, 2006) sug­gest that Read the rest of this entry »

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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