Brain Degeneration

Eating fish could prevent depression

Eating a lot of fish may help prevent depression, research suggests.

Eating a lot of fish may help prevent depression, research suggests.An analysis of 26 studies of more than 150,000 people in total indicated a 17% reduction in the risk of depression among those eating the most fish.

One potential reason given by the researchers was the fatty acids found in fish may be important in various aspects of brain activity.

Mind, the mental health charity, said the study supported other work showing links between diet and mood.

Writing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the Chinese researchers said many studies had been done looking at fish consumption and depression, but the results had been mixed.

When they looked at different study types, they found that the apparent protective effect of eating lots of fish was specific to studies done in Europe and not those from other areas of the world.

To try to come to a conclusion on what they said had been a controversial issue, they collated the data from all the relevant studies they could find conducted since 2001.

Their calculation did show a significant link between the two, and it was true for men and women.

While the results could not point to any conclusions about cause and effect, there were interesting theories as to why fish may be good for mental health, the researchers said.

One possible explanation is that the omega-three fatty acids found in fish may be key in the activity of dopamine and serotonin – two signalling chemicals in the brain thought to be involved in depression.

Another possibility is that people who eat a lot of fish may have a healthier diet in general – which in turn could help their mental health.

Prof Dongfeng Zhang, from the Medical College of Qingdao University, said: “Higher fish consumption may be beneficial in the primary prevention of depression.

“Future studies are needed to further investigate whether this association varies according to the type of fish.”

Rachel Boyd, information manager at Mind, said they had recently published a guide, Food and Mood, which included advice on eating the “good fats” such as those found in fish.

“It is important not to oversimplify the results as there are lots of different factors in the development of depression,” she said.

“But we really agree that having these fatty acids in your diet can be helpful, and it’s something where people can make quite small changes that could have quite a big impact.”

She pointed out that for vegetarians or others who did not want to eat fish there were other sources of fatty acids, such as seeds and nuts, as well as supplements.

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Curry spice may boost and repair brains

A spice commonly found in curries may boost the brain’s ability to heal itself, according to a report in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy.

Curry spice may boost and repair brainsThe German study suggests a compound found in turmeric could encourage the growth of nerve cells thought to be part of the brain’s repair kit.

Scientists say this work- based in rats, may pave the way for future drugs for strokes and Alzheimer’s disease, but they say more trials are needed to see whether this applies to humans.

Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Julich, Germany, studied the effects of aromatic-turmerone – a compound found naturally in turmeric.

Rats were injected with the compound and their brains were then scanned.

Particular parts of the brain, known to be involved in nerve cell growth, were seen to be more active after the aromatic turmerone infusion.

Scientists say the compound may encourage a proliferation of brain cells.

In a separate part of the trial, researchers bathed rodent neural stem cells (NSCs) in different concentrations of aromatic tumerone extract.

NSCs have the ability to transform into any type of brain cell and scientists suggest they could have a role in repair after damage or disease.

Dr Maria Adele Rueger, who was part of the research team, said: “In humans and higher developed animals their abilities do not seem to be sufficient to repair the brain but in fish and smaller animals they seem to work well.”

The research found the higher the concentration of aromatic turmerone, the greater the growth of the NSCs.

And the cells bathed in the turmeric compound seemed to specialise into certain types of brain cells more rapidly too.

Dr Rueger added: “It is interesting that it might be possible to boost the effectiveness of the stem cells with aromatic-turmerone. And it is possible this in turn can help boost repair in the brain.”

She is now considering whether human trials may be feasible.

Aromatic turmerone is the lesser studied of two major compounds in turmeric that may have an effect on the human body.

Previous studies suggest the other compound, curcumin, could reduce inflammation in the body and have anti cancer benefits.

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Cannabis can make patients less bothered by pain

Cannabis makes pain more bearable rather than actually reducing it, a study from the University of Oxford suggests.Cannabis can make patients less bothered by painUsing brain imaging, researchers found that the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis reduced activity in a part of the brain linked to emotional aspects of pain.

But the effect on the pain experienced varied greatly, they said.

The researchers’ findings Amygdala activity contributes to the dissociative effect of cannabis on pain perception are published in the journal Pain.

The Oxford researchers recruited 12 healthy men to take part in their small study.

Participants were given either a 15mg tablet of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) – the ingredient that is responsible for the high – or a placebo.

The volunteers then had a cream rubbed into the skin of one leg to induce pain, which was either a dummy cream or a cream that contained chilli – which caused a burning and painful sensation.

Each participant had four MRI scans which revealed how their brain activity changed when their perception of the pain reduced.

Dr Michael Lee, lead study author from Oxford University’s Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain, said: “We found that with THC, on average people didn’t report any change in the burn, but the pain bothered them less.”

MRI brain imaging showed reduced activity in key areas of the brain that explained the pain relief which the study participants experienced.

Dr Lee suggested that the findings could help predict who would benefit from taking cannabis for pain relief – because not everyone does.

“We may in future be able to predict who will respond to cannabis, but we would need to do studies in patients with chronic pain over longer time periods.”

He added: “Cannabis does not seem to act like a conventional pain medicine. Some people respond really well, others not at all, or even poorly.

“Brain imaging shows little reduction in the brain regions that code for the sensation of pain, which is what we tend to see with drugs like opiates.

“Instead cannabis appears to mainly affect the emotional reaction to pain in a highly variable way.”

The study was funded by the UK Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.

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Smoking may worsen a hangover US research concludes

Smoking may worsen a hangover after drinking heavily US research concludes-  although the reason why is unclear.Smoking may worsen a hangover US research concludesResearchers asked 113 US students to keep a diary for eight weeks, recording their drinking and smoking habits and any hangover symptoms.

When they drank heavily- around six cans of beer an hour – those who also smoked suffered a worse hangover.

Addiction charities hope this study may motivate smokers to cut down over the festive season.

The study’s findings are reported in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

One of the paper’s authors, Dr Damaris Rohsenow, from the Centre for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University said: “At the same number of drinks, people who smoke more that day are more likely to have a hangover and have more intense hangovers.”

“And smoking itself was linked to an increased risk of hangover compared with not smoking at all.  That raises the likelihood that there is some direct effect of tobacco smoking on hangovers.”

The students from a Midwestern university in the US reported on the number of drinks consumed, number of cigarettes smoked and their hangover symptoms – which included if they felt more tired than usual, had a headache, felt nauseated and had difficulty concentrating.

The researchers then estimated blood alcohol concentration (BAC) which helped control for differences between sexes as it took into account weight and the period over which the student drank alcohol.

After analysing the results, the researchers found that smoking more heavily the day before increased the presence and severity of hangover the next day – but only after a heavy drinking episode, estimated at a BAC of 110mg/dl or greater – the equivalent of around six cans of beer an hour.

The reasons why are unclear- but the study suggests it may down to the toxicological and pharmacological effects of nicotine on the nervous system.

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Exercising in your 70s may stop brain shrinkage

Exercising in your 70s may stop your brain from shrinking and showing the signs of ageing linked to dementia, say experts from Edinburgh University.Exercising in your 70s may stop brain shrinkageBrain scans of 638 people past the age of retirement showed those who were most physically active had less brain shrinkage over a three-year period.

Exercise did not have to be strenuous – going for a walk several times a week sufficed. But giving the mind a workout by doing a tricky crossword had little impact.

The study found no real brain-size benefit from mentally challenging activities, such as reading a book, or other pastimes such as socialising with friends and family.

When the researchers examined the brain’s white matter – the wiring that transmits messages round the brain – they found that the people over the age of 70 who were more physically active had fewer damaged areas than those who did little exercise.

And they had more grey matter – the parts of the brain where the messages originate.

Experts already know that our brains tend to shrink as we age and that this shrinkage is linked to poorer memory and thinking and previous studies have shown that exercise helps reduce the risk of dementia and can slow down its onset.

But scientists are still baffled about why this is.

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, delivering oxygen and nutrients to brain cells, which may be important.

Or it may be that as people’s brains shrink, they become less inclined to exercise.

Regardless of why, experts say the findings are good news because exercise is an easy thing to do to boost health.

Prof James Goodwin, head of research at Age UK, the charity that provided the funding for the research, said: “This research re-emphasises that it really is never too late to benefit from exercise, so whether it’s a brisk walk to the shops, gardening or competing in a fun run it is crucial that, those of us who can, get active as we grow older.”

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Does a high fat diet damage your brain?

Eating a high fat diet can impair the function of the part of the brain that controls appetite and energy expenditure which in turn dictates our weight.Does a high fat diet damage your brain?That is the finding presented at the British Science Festival by scientists at the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute for Nutrition and Health.

This may help explain why overweight people struggle to lose weight and then struggle to maintain their weight loss.

Researchers fed mice a diet high in saturated fat and sugar over 16 weeks – where 60% of their energy came from saturated fat – and compared them with mice fed a normal diet over the same period.

Using techniques such as transcriptomics and proteomics, scientists then studied genes and proteins in the hypothalamus of their brain – the part that regulates eating and energy expenditure.

They found that mice fed a high fat diet had changes to genes and proteins indicative of damage in the hypothalamus and that these changes occurred very rapidly – within weeks.

Dr Lynda Williams, Obesity and Metabolic Health Group Leader, at the Rowett, said: “The hypothalamus is a small area at the base of the brain containing neurones that control the amount of food we eat and the energy we expend.

“However this control breaks down in obesity – the system appears not to work – and we don’t really know why this happens. In our study we found that genes and proteins changed in response to a high fat diet and that these changes are normally associated with damage in the brain, indicating that damage had occurred in the hypothalamus in mice that ate a diet high in saturated fat.

“We instinctively know that eating a diet high in saturated fat and sugar will lead to overweight and obesity. Our results indicate that a high fat diet can damage the areas of the brain that control energy balance and perpetuate the development of obesity. High fat and high sugar foods are energy dense foods which are highly palatable and they are very easy to overeat.”

“Our findings may also explain why some overweight people find it difficult to diet and why weight loss after dieting is so difficult to maintain. We now plan to carry out further studies that will look at whether these effects are reversible.”

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Super ageing 80 year olds have brains of 50 year olds

Scientists have now discovered that some OAPs are among a group of octogenarian “super-agers” who have brains like people in their 50s.Super ageing 80 year olds have brains of 50 year oldsMRI scans have found that some people in their eighties have more developed sections of the brain associated with memory, attention and thinking skills.

The researchers believe that for some people the rare ability to withstand the effects of ageing is in the genes, while for others it may be down to a combination of genes and a healthy way of life. It is hoped that the discovery, by Northwestern University in Chicago, could lead to new approaches to the treatment of dementia.

Emily Rogalski, an assistant professor in cognitive neurology, said: “The super-agers really are a diverse group, not all were wealthy, some exercised five times a week while others only ran if they were chased.”

“Some individuals smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years and had a Martini each evening while others never touched alcohol or cigarettes.”

“So it seems there are different paths to becoming a super-ager. There may be some people for whom genetics is very important and they are able to get away with being unhealthy and still have super brains.”

Researchers scanned the brains of 12 people in their eighties who scored extremely highly on memory and thinking tests, with average results similar to or better than middle-aged people. They then compared them with the brain scans of 10 normally ageing 80 year-olds and middle-aged people.

In bright octogenarians, the outer layer of the brain, the cortex, is thicker and more like that of someone in their fifties.

Professor Rogalski said that the phenomenon is rare, and he had whittled down 300 people who thought they had superior reasoning to just 30 after tests.

The super-agers included one woman who had survived the Holocaust, drank whisky each night and outlived four husbands.  Another spent her life as a housewife, contracted cancer, and went through chemotherapy.

Some were on a multitude of medicines for various conditions while others were physically healthy.

Prof Rogalski said: “By looking at a really healthy older brain, we can start to deduce how super-agers are able to maintain their good memory.

“Many scientists study what’s wrong with the brain, but maybe we can ultimately help Alzheimer’s patients by figuring out what goes right in the brain of super-agers.  What we learn from these healthy brains may inform our strategies for improving quality of life for the elderly and for combating Alzheimer’s disease.”

Another part of the brain, the anterior cingulate, of the super-agers was also thicker than in the 50 to 65 year-olds.

Prof Rogalski said: “This is pretty incredible.  This region is important for attention. Attention supports memory.  Perhaps the super-agers have really keen attention and that supports their exceptional memories. These are a special group of people.”

From: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Super-ageing-80-year-olds-have-brains-30-years-younger

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Alzheimers Memory Walk for charity all around the UK

On September 16th thousands of people all around the country will walk together to raise money to fight dementia- please walk with us.

Memory Walks are taking place across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and registration is simple and free – just select the walk you want to be part of and complete the online form.

The money you raise will help us to run services in your community. The more people who take part, and the more money you raise, the bigger difference we will make to people’s lives.

Raise money It’s quick and easy to donate, and the amounts given tend to be higher so just follow the instructions below to set up your JustGiving account. It’s really simple.

  • Go to www.justgiving.com/alzheimerssoc/raisemoney
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to set up your page.
  • Personalise it with a message to potential sponsors about why you’ve chosen Memory Walk and Alzheimer’s Society, and why reaching your target is important to you.
  • Ask everyone to sponsor you by emailing a request with a link to your web page to friends, family and colleagues.
  • Update your sponsors with some news about your Memory Walk and thank them for their support.

Fundraising tips Here are some tips to ensure you get the most out of your fundraising!

  • Start as early as you possibly can – don’t leave it to the last minute.
  • Set yourself a target and be positive that you can reach it.
  • Ask your company to support you; a lot of companies will match the sponsorship you raise so you will be doubling your total!
  • Tell everyone that you are doing this event for the Society and carry a sponsorship form with you at all times.
  • Ask friends if they could organise an event or donate their skills (for example haircutting) in exchange for donations.
  • Tick the Gift Aid box – it means that the Inland Revenue will pay the Society an extra 28p for every £1 that’s donated.
  • Make sure the first pledge on the sponsorship form is a high one as it sets the tone for the rest.

What your support could provide

  • £35 could support a person with dementia to receive a one hour befriending session with a volunteer, providing them with companionship and social support
  • £50 could support five people with dementia to attend a one hour session at a Dementia Cafe, receiving information and support in a friendly and informal setting
  • £104 could allow callers from anywhere in the country to call the national Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Helpline each week at their local rate
  • £200 could help run one session of Singing for the Brain, an Alzheimer’s Society activity that enables people with dementia and their carers to engage in the benefits and enjoyment of structured community singing

For more fundraising tips and ideas, visit Alzheimer’s Society website.

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Red meat and butter could raise Alzheimer’s risk

Eating too much red meat, butter and other foods that contain high levels of saturated fats could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s according to new research.Red meat and butter could raise Alzheimer's riskUS researchers linked to Harvard University found older women who ate lots of food high in saturated fats had worse memories than others.

By contrast, those who ate more monounsaturated fats – found in olive oil, sunflower oil, seeds, nuts and avocados – had better memories.

Dr Oliva Okereke, from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass., which is affiliated to Harvard Medical School, said: “When looking at changes in cognitive function, what we found is that the total amount of fat intake did not really matter, but the type of fat did.”

She and fellow researchers made their conclusions after looking at results from 6,000 women over 65, who carried out a series of mental tests over four years and answered questionnaires about their diet and lifestyle.

Dr Okereke added: “Substituting in the good fat in place of the bad fat is a fairly simple dietary modification that could help prevent decline in memory.”

Having a poor memory can be a harbinger of Alzheimer’s in elderly people, although the former by no means always leads to the latter.

It follows other research showing a link between high cholesterol and a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.

The report is published in thejournal Annals of Neurology.

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