Daily Crossword Puzzles May Help Sustain Brain Function As We Age

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Professor Keith A. Wesnes BSc PhD FSS CPsychol FBPsS Head Honcho, Wesnes Cognition Ltd Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Medical School, University of Exeter, UK Visiting Professor, Department of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK Adjunct Professor, Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia Visiting Professor, Medicinal Plant Research Group, Newcastle University, UK Wesnes Cognition Ltd, Little Paddock, Streatley Hill, Streatley on Thames UK

Prof. Wesnes

Professor Keith A. Wesnes
BSc PhD FSS CPsychol FBPsS
Head Honcho, Wesnes Cognition Ltd
Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Medical School, University of Exeter, UK
Visiting Professor, Department of Psychology
Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK
Adjunct Professor, Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia
Visiting Professor, Medicinal Plant Research Group
Newcastle University, UK
Wesnes Cognition Ltd, Little Paddock, Streatley Hill, Streatley on Thames UK 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: This data we reported were taken from the PROTECT study, a 10-year research programme being conducted jointly by Kings College London and the University of Exeter Medical School. It started in November 2015 and over 20,000 individuals aged 50 to 96 years have enrolled.

A highly novel feature of the study is that it is run entirely remotely, the participants logging on via the internet at home and providing demographic and life style information, and also performing online cognitive tasks of key aspects of cognitive function. The tasks are from two well-validated systems, CogTrack and the PROTECT test system, and assess major aspects of cognitive function including focused and sustained attention, information processing, reasoning and a range of aspects of memory.

One of the lifestyle questions was ‘How frequently do you engage in word puzzles, e.g. crosswords?’ and the 6 possible answers were: never; occasionally; monthly; weekly; daily; more than once per day. We analysed the cognitive data from 17,677 individuals who had answered the question, and found that the more often the participants reported engaging in such puzzles, the better their cognitive function on each of the 9 cognitive tasks they performed. The group who never performed such puzzles were poorest on all measures, and the improvements were mostly incremental as the frequency of use increased. The findings were highly statistically reliable, and we controlled for factors including age, gender and education. To evaluate the magnitudes of these benefits, we calculated the average decline over the age-range on the various tasks in the study population. The average difference between those who ‘never’ did puzzles to those who did so ‘more than once a day’ was equivalent to 11 years of ageing; and between those who never did puzzles and all those who did was 8 years.

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Paper and Digital SAGE Brain Tests Equally Identify Cognitive Impairment and Dementia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Douglas W. Scharre MD Professor of Clinical Neurology and Psychiatry Director Division of Cognitive Neurology, Department of Neurology  Director, Center for Cognitive and Memory Disorders Director, Memory Disorders Research Center Co-Director, Neuroscience Research Institute Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center  Columbus, OH

Dr. Douglas Scharre

Douglas W. Scharre MD
Professor of Clinical Neurology and Psychiatry Director, Division of Cognitive Neurology
Department of Neurology
Director, Center for Cognitive and Memory Disorders
Director, Memory Disorders Research Center
Co-Director, Neuroscience Research Institute
Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Columbus, OH

 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE) is a pen-and paper, valid and reliable cognitive assessment tool for identifying individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or early dementia. We published age and education normative data on SAGE and determined that one point be added to the scores when age over 79 and one point be added when education level is 12 years or less. We evaluated the identical test questions in digital format (eSAGE) made for tablet use, adjusted with previously published age and education norms, and determined eSAGE’s association with gold standard clinical assessments. eSAGE is commercially known as BrainTest.

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Moderate Drinking Linked To Faster Cognitive Decline

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Anya Topiwala, BA (Hons) BMBCh (Oxon) MRCPsych DPhil Clinical lecturer Department of Psychiatry University of Oxford

Dr. Topiwala

Dr. Anya Topiwala, BA (Hons) BMBCh (Oxon) MRCPsych DPhil
Clinical lecturer
Department of Psychiatry
University of Oxford

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: I thought the question of whether moderate alcohol consumption is harmful or protective to the brain was a really interesting and important one, particularly because so many people drink this amount. There were a few studies reporting that a little alcohol may protect against dementia or cognitive decline, but the few brain imaging studies were conflicting in their results and had methodological limitations.

We examined whether alcohol consumption over a 30-year period was associated with brain imaging and memory decline in a group of 550 non-alcohol dependent individuals from the remarkable Whitehall II cohort. Subjects completed questionnaires and had clinical examinations approximately every 5 years over the 30 years of the study, and had detailed brain scans at the end.

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Over 50? Exercise Linked To Improved Cognitive Function

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Joseph Michael Northey
UC Research Institute for Sport and Exercise (UCRISE),
Discipline of Sport and Exercise Science, Faculty of Health
University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Physical exercise has an important role to play in maintaining cognitive function across the lifecycle. However, the benefits of implementing a physical exercise intervention were not clear. To address these issues which prevented evidence-based prescription of exercise for cognitive function, a systematic review of all the available literature up to November of 2016 in adults older than 50 was conducted.

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Concussion History and Cognitive Function in Retired Professional Hockey Players

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Brian Levine, Ph.D., C.Psych, ABPP-cn Senior Scientist, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Professor, Departments of Psychology and Medicine (Neurology) University of Toro

Dr. Brian Levine

Brian Levine, Ph.D., C.Psych, ABPP-cn
Senior Scientist, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest
Professor, Departments of Psychology and Medicine (Neurology)
University of Toronto

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: There is growing concern about the effects of concussion on brain function with aging. Retired professional athletes provide a unique perspective on this question, as many of them have a high concussion exposure before retirement in their 20’s or 30’s. Yet much of the research on professional athletes has been in post-mortem samples. There is a need for more research in retired athletes during life.

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Multiple Sclerosis Patients Show Cognitive Benefit From Remotely Supervised Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Leigh E. Charvet, PhD Associate Professor, Department of Neurology Department of Neurology New York University Langone Medical Center New York, NY

Dr. Charvet

Leigh E. Charvet, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Neurology
Department of Neurology
New York University Langone Medical Center
New York, NY

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for transcranial direct current stimulation? What are the main findings of this study in multiple sclerosis patients?

Response: The application of tDCS is a relatively recent therapeutic development that utilizes low amplitude direct currents to induce changes in cortical excitability. When paired with a rehabilitation activity, it may improve learning rates and outcomes.

Multiple repeated sessions are needed for both tDCS and cognitive training sessions to see a benefit. Because it is not feasible to have participants come to clinic daily for treatments, we developed a method to deliver tDCS paired with cognitive training (using computer-based training games) to patients at home. Our protocol uses a telemedicine platform with videoconferencing to assist study participants with all the procedures and to ensure safety and consistency across treatment sessions.

When testing our methods, we enrolled 25 participants with multiple sclerosis (MS) completed 10 sessions of tDCS (2.0 mA x 20 minutes, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, left anodal) using the remotely-supervised telerehabilitation protocol. This group was compared to n=20 MS participants who completed 10 sessions of cognitive training only (also through remote supervision).

We administered cognitive testing measures at baseline and study end. We found that both the tDCS and cognitive training only group had similar and slight improvements on composites of standard neuropsychological measures and basic attention. However, the tDCS group had a significantly greater gain on computer-based measures of complex attention and on a measure of intra-individual variability in response times.

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Prostate Cancer: No Association Between Androgen Deprivation Therapy and Dementia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Farzin Khosrow-Khavar, M.Sc. Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, McGill University
Center for Clinical Epidemiology – Jewish General Hospital
Montreal, QC 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Previous studies have shown an association between androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) and risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, these studies had methodological limitations that may account for this positive association. Using appropriate study design and methodology, we found no association between androgen deprivation therapy and risk of dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) in patients with prostate cancer. These results were consistent by cumulative duration of  androgen deprivation therapy use and by ADT modality.

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Hip Fractures Increase Mortality Risk in Cognitively Impaired Men

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ann L. Gruber-Baldini, Ph.D. Professor, Division of Gerontology Director, Program in Epidemiology and Human Genetics  Department of Epidemiology & Public Health University of Maryland School of Medicine

Dr. Ann Gruber-Baldini

Ann L. Gruber-Baldini, Ph.D.
Professor, Division of Gerontology
Director, Program in Epidemiology and Human Genetics
Department of Epidemiology & Public Health
University of Maryland School of Medicine 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: While men make up only about 25% of all hip fractures, the number of men who fracture their hip is increasing and we know men are more likely to die than women after a hip fracture. It is also known that those with cognitive impairments, typically due to delirium and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, are more likely to do more poorly after the fracture. The impact of both sex and cognition on outcomes after hip fracture has not been fully explored.

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Living Near Major Roads Associated With Increased Dementia Risk

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Hong Chen, PhD Scientist, Environmental Health Assessment Public Health Ontario | Santé publique Ontario Assistant Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto Adjunct Scientist, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) Toronto, ON

Dr. Hong Chen

Hong Chen, PhD
Scientist, Environmental Health Assessment
Public Health Ontario | Santé publique Ontario
Assistant Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health
University of Toronto
Adjunct Scientist, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences
Toronto, ON

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Over the past several decades, there is unequivocal evidence that living close to major roadways may lead to various adverse health outcomes, such as cardio-respiratory related mortality and mortality. In the past decade, concern is growing that exposures associated with traffic such as air pollution and noise may also have an adverse impact on brain health. Several experimental studies show that air pollutants and diesel exhaust induce oxidative stress and neuroinflammation, activate microglia (which act as the first and main form of immune defense in the central nervous system), and stimulate neural antibodies. There are also a small number of epidemiological studies linking traffic-related noise and air pollution to cognitive decline and increased incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies also showed that living near roads was associated with reduced white matter hyperintensity volume and cognition, but its effect on the incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis is unknown. Given hundreds of millions of people worldwide live close to major roads, we conducted this population-based cohort study to investigate the association between residential proximity to major roadways and the incidence of these three neurological diseases in Ontario, Canada.

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Is Depression in Mild Cognitive Impairment a Precursor to Dementia?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Zahinoor Ismail MD FRCPC

Clinical Associate Professor,
Hotchkiss Brain Institute
University of Calgary

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Depression and depressive symptoms are common in mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Evidence suggests that depression in MCI increases the likelihood of progression from MCI to dementia, compared to non-depressed people with MCI. In the newer construct of mild behavioural impairment (MBI), which describes the relationship between later life onset of sustained and impactful neuropsychiatric symptoms and the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, depression is an important subdomain (in addition to apathy, impulse control, social cognition and psychotic symptoms). Thus, depression and depressive symptoms are a significant risk factor for cognitive, behavioural and functional outcomes in older adults who have at most mild cognitive impairment. As the importance of neuropsychiatric symptoms in older adults emerges, good prevalence estimates are required to inform clinicians and researchers as well as public health policy and decision makers.

We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to determine the best estimate of prevalence of depression in  mild cognitive impairment. We included 57 studies, representing 20,892 participants in the analysis. While we determined that the omnibus prevalence estimate was 32%, there was significant heterogeneity in this sample based on setting. In community samples, the rate was 25%, but in clinical samples this was higher at 40%. Additionally, different case ascertainment methods for depression (self report, clinician administered or caregiver report) and different MCI criteria didn’t change the prevalence estimates.

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