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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Hourglass #3: the biology of aging

Wel­come to the third edi­tion of Hour­glass, the month­ly vir­tu­al gath­er­ing of blog­gers to Hourglassdis­cuss the Biol­o­gy of Aging.

For today’s edi­tion, let’s imag­ine all par­tic­i­pants sit­ting around a table lead­ing a live­ly Ques­tions & Answers ses­sion, dis­cussing as a group, lis­ten­ing, talk­ing. (And, well, aging.)

Q: What is aging?
Ms. Wikipedia: “Age­ing or aging (Amer­i­can Eng­lish) is the accu­mu­la­tion of changes in an organ­ism or object over time. Age­ing in humans refers to a mul­ti­di­men­sion­al process of phys­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal, and social change. Some dimen­sions of age­ing grow and expand over time, while oth­ers decline. Reac­tion time, for exam­ple, may slow with age, while knowl­edge of world events and wis­dom may expand.”

Aging may not be the sex­i­est  of words in our vocab­u­lary. Unless, of course (as I heard some­where recent­ly but can’t prop­er­ly cred­it), you con­sid­er the most com­mon alter­na­tive.

Q: If the objec­tive of anti-aging research is to extend lifes­pan, isn’t there a risk that we may neglect qual­i­ty of life. After all, would peo­ple real­ly like to spend more years afflict­ed by the dis­eases and the decline that often come with age?
Ed (dragged to the dis­cus­sion by Chris and Alvaro): I have rel­a­tive­ly good news to share. A recent Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Den­mark found that the pro­por­tion of elder­ly Danes who man­age to remain inde­pen­dent holds steady at Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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