B Vitamins Slow Brain Atrophy In People With Memory Problems
- University of Oxford
- Daily tablets of certain B vitamins can halve the rate of brain shrinkage in elderly people who suffer from mild memory problems, a new study has shown.
Daily tablets of certain B vitamins can halve the rate of brain shrinkage in elderly people who suffer from mild memory problems, an Oxford University study has shown.
The two-year randomised clinical trial is the largest to study the effect of B vitamins on mild cognitive impairment, and one of the first disease-modifying trials in the Alzheimer’s field to show positive results in people.
Around 1 in 6 elderly people over the age of 70 has mild cognitive impairment, experiencing problems with memory, language, or other mental functions, but not to a degree that interferes with daily life. Around half of people with mild cognitive impairment go on to develop dementia — mainly Alzheimer’s disease — within five years of diagnosis.
Certain B vitamins — folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 — are known to control levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood, and high levels of homocysteine are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
So the Oxford team set out to see whether supplements of the B vitamins that lower homocysteine could slow the higher rate of brain shrinkage, or atrophy, observed in mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s.
Keep All Your Wires Connected
Meditation not only strengthens gray matter, it also strengthens white matter . A University of CaliforniaDavis article describes white matter: were a computer network, gray mattera portion that contains nerve cells and capillarieswould be the computers and white matter the cables.
Luders said: Our results suggest that long-term meditators have white-matter fibers that are either more numerous, more dense or more insulated throughout the brain. We also found that the normal age-related decline of white-matter tissue is considerably reduced in active meditation practitioners.
How To Prevent Stress From Shrinking Your Brain
Dr. Mitchell explains, “Stress is a common experience that can have negative consequences on our brain health. When we feel stressed, our body releases hormones like cortisol which can damage the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Over time, chronic stress can lead to a decrease in the size of the hippocampus, and this shrinkage has been linked to problems with memory, concentration, and mood. Thankfully, there are things we can do to prevent stress from damaging our brains. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress levels, and it also helps to protect the hippocampus from shrinkage. Additionally, spending time with friends and family can help to reduce stress, as can relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing. By taking steps to reduce our stress levels, we can help to protect our brains from shrinkage.”
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Brain Atrophy Or Cerebral Atrophy Describes The Loss Of Cells And Tissue Within The Brain The Condition Arises Secondarily To Many Diseases Of The Brain
The brain is very much a “use it or lose it” organ. Keep it active!
The human brain is a truly remarkable and highly complex organ. Neurons are the brain cells that carry messages throughout the brain, nervous system, and body. Its estimated that healthy adults have around 100 billion neurons, each connecting to 10,000 other neuronsan impressive network indeed!
Brain atrophy is a common feature of many of the diseases that affect the brain, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke . Atrophy describes a loss of neurons and the connections between them.
Brain atrophy can be:
- Generalized, affecting the whole brain and causing it to shrink, or
- Focal, affecting one area of the brain
Wherever atrophy occurs, there will be decreased function of that part of the brain and symptoms in the part of the body controlled by that area. If atrophy affects both hemispheres or lobes of the brain, then thinking, sensation, movement, and/or speech may be impaired.
Shrinkage Cognition And Alzheimers
Several studies have found that brain shrinkage significantly relates to cognition.
A 2010 study from the University of Pittsburgh studied 299 people and found that shrinkage of gray matter volume was associated with cognitive decline. More gray matter shrinkage increased the rate of cognitive decline by two-fold.
Meanwhile, other research has found significant brain shrinkage among dementia and Alzheimers disease patients. A 2001 study from the UKs University College London did MRIs of 20 people with Alzheimers disease along with 20 healthy people of similar ages. The researchers found that the Alzheimers patients had significantly more brain shrinkage than the healthy people.
Even those in early stage Alzheimers disease showed increased shrinkage. Brain regions found shrunk included the posterior cingulate and neocortical temporoparietal cortices. They also found shrunk regions in the medial temporal lobe.
A 2009 study from the University of California at San Diego found similar results. They did brain scans of 139 healthy people along with 175 people with mild cognitive impairment and 84 people with Alzheimers disease.
They found that those with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimers disease had greater brain shrinkage. This included several brain regions, including frontal cortices, posterior parietal region and anterior cingulate cortex. Losses were seen in ventricular, temporal and posterior regions of the brain.
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Exercise For Brain Atrophy
A 2011 review suggests that regular exercise could slow or even reverse brain atrophy related to aging or dementia.
However, one found that high intensity exercise and strength training did not slow cognitive impairment in people with mild-to-moderate dementia. Additional research is therefore necessary to determine what effect, if any, exercise has on preventing or reversing brain atrophy due to dementia.
The Connection Between Diabetes And Brain Shrinkage
Diabetes is notorious for causing problems with the peripheral nervous system,28 leading to conditions such as painful diabetic neuropathy and blindness-inducing diabetic retinopathy. New findings suggest that high blood sugar levelsand the advancedglycation end products that they producecause damage to the central nervous system as well, specifically neurodegeneration and brain atrophy.29-31
Studies have shown that, when compared to nondiabetic people of similar age, diabetics have an average of4% smaller hippocampal volume, a nearly 3% reduction in whole brain volume, and double the risk of mild cognitive impairment.32,33
In addition to causing brain shrinkage, studies now suggest that diabetes induces toxic, misfolded proteins quite similar to those found in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers, pointing to yet another way that diabetes can damage brain cells.34 Indeed, diabetes and Alzheimers disease share many properties, including defective insulin release and signaling, impaired glucose uptake from the blood, increased oxidative stress, stimulation of brain cell death by apoptosis,35,36 blood vessel abnormalities, and problems with energy production in mitochondria.37,38
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Stress Impairs The Function Of Neurons And Reduces Their Ability To Communicate With Each Other
“It is a well-known fact that stress can have a negative impact on our health,” says Dr. Mitchell. “But did you know that it can also impair the function of neurons and reduce their ability to communicate with each other? In addition, stress can shrink the brain.So how does this happen? When we are under stress, our bodies release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol affects the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Chronic stress can lead to a shrinkage of the hippocampus. In addition, cortisol inhibits the release of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that help neurons communicate with each other. This can lead to a decrease in communication between neurons and an overall reduction in brain function. So why does this happen? The body releases cortisol in response to stress as part of the fight-or-flight response. This is an evolutionary mechanism that helps us deal with acute stressors such as predators or danger. However, modern-day stressors such as work deadlines or financial worries are not life-threatening, yet our bodies still respond in the same way. As a result, we are constantly bombarded with cortisol, which can lead to the negative effects on brain function described above.”
Which Foods Might Stop Your Brain From Shrinking
Diet is important to health and well-being, and researchers bring an increasing amount of evidence in support of the saying, you are what you eat. So, how does diet affect our brain health in the long run? A new study investigates.
As we age, our brains in volume at a rate of around 5 percent per decade after age 40, to be more precise.
And the more they shrink, the more this seems to affect an individuals cognitive abilities.
However, there may be ways of maintaining a healthy brain volume, even as we grow older, such as by paying more attention to what we eat on a day-to-day basis.
A study published last year in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution revealed that non-human primates brain size can be predicted by the type of diet they favor. But is the same true in humans?
People with greater brain volume have been shown to have better cognitive abilities, notes Dr. Meike W. Vernooij, from the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, so initiatives that help improve diet quality may be a good strategy to maintain thinking skills in older adults.
But, she adds, More research is needed to confirm these results and to examine the pathways through which diet can affect the brain.
Dr. Vernooij and colleagues recently conducted a study on a large Netherlands-based population sample to see if they could observe any associations between dietary preferences and brain size, as well as the existence of any cognitive impairments.
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Strengthen Parts Of The Brain Related To Happiness And Peacefulness
Ricard has been dubbed the worlds happiest man. Researchers could tell by looking at the activity in different parts of his brain that he has an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity, according to Smithsonian. The study found similar effectsthough not so pronouncedeven in people who only meditated for 20 minutes per day over the course of three weeks.
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital , the University of Massachusetts, and Germanys University of Giessen, published a study in 2011 showing the peacefulness experienced by meditators as reflected in the brain.
MGHs Sara Lazar, Ph.D., said in a press release that the study demonstrates changes in brain structure consistent with the improvements experienced by the participants, such as a sense of peacefulness.
Over the course of eight weeks, Lazar observed that the concentration of gray matter changed in brain regions associated with learning and memory, emotion, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.
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Which Brain Parts Are Affected By Cerebral Atrophy
While having generalized cerebral atrophy will affect the entire brain size as a whole, there are several instances where certain parts of the brain may be affected more significantly than others. In Alzheimers disease, the most common cause of dementia, the hippocampus and the cortex are two areas especially affected. These regions of the brain are responsible for forming new memories and helping us think, plan, and remember, respectively.
Another form of dementia called frontotemporal dementia is known for affecting the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain more significantly. These regions of the brain are known for being responsible for personality and behavior, which succumbs to atrophy as the condition progresses.
In cases of vascular dementia, the location of injury on the brain will determine what regions of the brain are affected. This will not only lead to neurological deficits but also cerebral atrophy.
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Consider Supplementing With Zinc
Zinc is concentrated in the brain more than in any other body tissue and helps hormones deliver their signals to your brain.
There are robust levels of zinc in the hippocampus to help deliver signals to keep this precious piece of biological real estate healthy. Why? The hippocampus is the physical analogy of our soul. Its where we live. The hippocampus is the epicenter of the 3 Ms: motivation, memory and sense of me-ness.
Inside the hippocampus, zinc lives inside synaptic vesicles, boutons, and mossy fibers to allow nerve signals to keep your brain humming along. Zinc is also found in large concentrations in the choroid layer of the retina, an extension of the brain. This means that zinc helps you see.
Lack of zinc has been shown to cause brain unwellness. A deficiency in the diet of pregnant moms, or lactating moms, has been linked to many congenital abnormalities of the nervous system in children born to these moms.
In children, insufficient levels of zinc have been associated with lowered learning ability, apathy, lethargy, difficulty in thinking, and even mental retardation. Hyperactive children may be deficient in zinc and vitamin B-6 and have an excess of metals like lead and copper that block healthy zinc action.
Causes Of Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, which damages and eventually kills brain cells.
This can happen as a result of:
- narrowing and blockage of the small blood vessels inside the brain
- a single stroke, where the blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly cut off
- lots of “mini strokes” that cause tiny but widespread damage to the brain
Tackling these might reduce your risk of vascular dementia in later life, although it’s not yet clear exactly how much your risk of dementia can be reduced.
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The Pandemic Is Changing Our Brains How To Reverse The Effects
The novel coronavirus is affecting our brains whether weve caught it or not.
Whether you have contracted Covid-19 or not, your brain is likely to have changed over the past few months. The virus itself can cause a number of neurological problems, along with anxiety and depression. The isolation and worry caused by the pandemic can similarly alter our brain chemistry and cause mood disorders.
In our new paper, published in Neuropsychopharmacology Reviews, we have investigated how to best overcome the brain changes linked to the pandemic.
Lets start with Covid-19 infection. In addition to mood disorders, common symptoms include fatigue, headaches, memory loss, and problems with attention. There may be a number of reasons for these brain changes, including inflammation and cerebrovascular events .
Research suggests that the virus may gain access to the brain via the forebrains olfactory bulb, which is important for the processing of smell. Loss of smell is a symptom in many patients with Covid-19.
As part of the system responsible for your sense of smell, the olfactory bulb sends information about the smell to be further processed in other brain regions including the amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex, and the hippocampus which play a major role in emotion, learning, and memory.
Fixing Your Back Pain Can Reverse Brain Shrinkage
Perhaps the most interesting thing about low back pain Ive come across is that there is much more than just the static and dynamic structures of the spine involved in the pain process. In fact, it seems clear that the nervous system, including the brain, are huge players in low back pain.
Im big into simple analogies it is the way that I learn, and it seems others do as well. So consider this analogy to grasp why knowing that the central nervous system is a big player in low back pain is so important:
Lets think of the spine and the nervous system like the lights in the room you are in. In the spine, we have bones, joints, discs, ligaments that are commonly source of pain. Exiting from these structures are nerves, which eventually are connected to the spinal cord and ultimately to the brain. Similarly, the light bulb is like the spinal structure, the wires are like the nerves, and the generator is like the brain. It is clear to understand how damage to the light bulb, fraying of the wiring, or a malfunction of the generator can cause problems with the lighting. Damage to one structure can compromise the functioning of the other. For example, improper light bulb wattage could short circuit the generator, or a frayed wire could eventually burn out a light bulb.
Chronic Pain Causes Brain Shrinkage But it Can be Reversed!
David A. Seminowicz, et al. The Journal of Neuroscience, 18 May 2011, 31
Why back pain is not to be ignored and we must focus on the cause!
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Causes Of Brain Atrophy
Perhaps the most common question surrounding brain atrophy would be: What causes it? A number of reasons can come into play, among them normal aging.
As we age, we lose brain cells and their connections at a rate faster than we can make new cells or new connections . In fact, from young adulthood onwards, the average brain shrinks 1.9 percent in every 10-year period. In healthy people, the effects may become noticeable in their 60s, when the rate of loss increases to around 1 percent each year. The hippocampusthe area of the brain responsible for forming new memoriesshrinks significantly.
A healthy lifestyleincluding a nutritious diet, regular exercise, mental stimulation, adequate sleep, and social interactioncan slow progression of symptoms due to this normal aging process.
What We Know About White Matter In Aging Brains
There are some encouraging findings on the reversibility and the slowing down of age-related white matter shrinkage. In one study, Agnieszka Burzynska, a professor of neuroscience and human development at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and colleagues collected brain images and cognitive measurements from a group of healthy sedentary men and women .
They randomly assigned participants to one of three conditions: walking, dancing, or active control . Active control involved exercises designed to improve flexibility, strength, and balance with the aid of yoga mats and blocks, chairs, and resistance bands specifically designed for people 60 years of age or older. The walking intervention involved walking for 40 minutes at 60 to 75 percent of participants maximal heart rate. The dance condition involved choreographed dance combinations that became progressively more challenging over the course of the 6 months program.
Crucially, participants in all conditions attended three exercise sessions per week for 24 weeks . Researchers also measured the integrity of participants white matter using advanced neuroimaging parameters. Brain scans and all cognitive tests were repeated after the six-month exercise programs.
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