Our Memory System Is Adapted To Helping Us Raise Children

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Cute babies” by daily sunny is licensed under CC BY 2.0Benjamin M. Seitz
Doctoral Student
Department of Psychology, Learning & Behavior
University of California, Los Angeles

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

 

Response: The adaptive memory literature is based on two crucial theories.

The first is that we process information on different ‘levels’ and these different levels of processing information strongly influence our ability to later remember that information.

The second is that our evolutionary history has shaped our cognitive abilities and that these abilities therefore perform optimally when performing tasks related to evolutionary fitness. It has been established that processing words based on their relevancy to an imagined ancestral survival scenario yields incredible memory performance far superior than processing those same words based on their relevancy to similar imagined scenarios that do not involve the survival element or ancestral environment.

Our study demonstrates that thinking about raising offspring in an ancestral environment while processing words leads to a similar benefit to recall of those words as when thinking about survival, suggesting the human memory system while also useful in helping our species survive may have also been particularly useful in helping us raise our offspring.

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No Convincing Evidence of Memory Dysfunction Due To Statins

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr-Beth-Taylor

Dr. Taylor

Beth A. Taylor, PhD
Director of Exercise Physiology Research, Hartford Hospital Associate Professor, Kinesiology
University of Connecticut

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

Response: Hydroxy-methyl-glutaryl (HMG) CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) are the most effective medications for managing elevated concentrations of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C).  Although statins are generally well-tolerated, they are not without side effects, and mild central nervous system (CNS) complaints such as memory loss and attention decrements are the second most commonly reported adverse effect of these drugs.

Studies assessing cognitive effects of statins vary widely and have produced inconclusive findings. Despite the equivocal data on adverse cognitive side effects with statin therapy, in 2012 the FDA announced a safety label change for statins, based on published case reports of memory loss and confusion and data from the Adverse Events Reporting System. One possibility for these equivocal findings is that studies involving the effects of statins on cognition typically have assessed cognitive function using traditional cognitive tests, which may yield small effect sizes and demonstrate high intra-participant variability. This may explain the discrepancy between clinical trials and patient self-reports, and could be addressed by utilizing CNS tests that directly assess brain parameters.

To the best of our knowledge and literature review, this study is the first to investigate the effects of statins on the central nervous system by utilizing fMRI to assess brain neural activation in healthy adults treated with 80 mg atorvastatin or placebo.

We detected few changes attributable to statin therapy with standardized neuropsychological tests, a finding similar to that from previous clinical trials. However, participants on atorvastatin demonstrated altered patterns of neural activation on vs. off statin compared to participants treated with placebo. Unexpectedly, the treatment groups differed at both timepoints. The clinical implications of these findings are unclear and warrant additional clinical trials.

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Chronic Inflammation in Midlife May Predispose To Smaller Brain Volumes and Memory Ability In Seniors

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Keenan A. Walker, PhD
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, MD

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

Response: There is quite a bit of evidence linking immune function with dementia. For example, several of the risk genes for Alzheimer’s disease are known to play a key role in immune functioning and the regulation of inflammation. We conducted the current study to determine whether systemic inflammation earlier in life might be a risk factor for neurodegeneration decades later. This long temporal window allows us to get closer to understanding causality. That is, which comes first – systemic inflammation or brain volume loss.

Using a large community sample, we found that individuals with higher levels of blood inflammatory markers during midlife tended to have smaller brain volumes in select regions and reduced memory ability as older adults. We found the strongest associations between systemic inflammation and brain volume loss in brain regions most vulnerable Alzheimer’s disease.

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Weakening Neural Connections Can Eliminate Fearful Memories

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jun-Hyeong Cho MD PhD Department of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology University of California, Riverside Riverside, CA 92521

Dr. Jun-Hyeong Cho

Jun-Hyeong Cho MD PhD
Department of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology
University of California, Riverside
Riverside, CA 92521

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

Response: To survive in a dynamic environment, animals develop fear responses to dangerous situations. For these adaptive fear responses to be developed, the brain must discriminate between different sensory cues and associate only relevant stimuli with aversive events.

In our current study, we investigated the neural mechanism how the brain does this, using a mouse model of fear learning and memory. Our study demonstrates that the formation of fear memory associated with an auditory cue requires selective synaptic strengthening in neural pathways that convey the auditory signals to the amygdala, an essential brain area for fear learning and memory.

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Long Term Memories Can Be Selectively Erased

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Samuel Schacher, PhD and
Jiangyuan Hu, PhD,
Department of Neuroscience
Columbia University Medical Cente
New York State Psychiatric Institute
New York, NY 10032, USA

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

Response: It is well established that learning and memory requires changes in the properties of specific neural circuits in the brain activated by the experience. The long-term storage of the memory is encoded through changes in the function of the synapses within the circuit. Synapses are sites of communication between neurons, and the changes in their function come in two varieties: increases in strength and decreases in strength. The encoding of memories typically requires some combination of these synaptic changes, synaptic plasticity, which can last a long time to contribute to long-term memory. Thus the maintenance of a memory will require the persistent change (long-term synaptic memory) in the function of specific synapses.

But memories come in different flavors. In the original experiment by Pavlov, a neutral tone, which dogs ignore, came to predict the immediate appearance of a meal. After several of these pairings, the dogs would become happily excited just with the tone. The same type of conditioning could have a negative valence – the tone could proceed a shock to one of the dog’s paw. Now the neutral tone would predict a negative stimulus and the dog would express fearful behavior just with the tone (associative learning). A non-associative form of memory would be the same types of stimuli but without the preceding neutral stimulus. At random times the animal will be given a meal or a shock. The behavior of the animal for some time will take on the positive or negative features of its environment – a contented versus depressed condition.

Each of these forms of long-term memory would be maintained by increases in the strength of specific synapses.

The questions addressed in our study published in Current Biology, based on previous work in my lab and the lab of my colleague Wayne Sossin at McGill, were:

1) Do the same molecules maintain increases in synaptic strength in the neurons of the circuit after stimuli that produce long-term classical conditioning (associative learning) and long-term sensitization (non-associative learning)?
2) If different molecules maintain the different synaptic memories, is it possible to reverse or erase the different synaptic memories by interfering with the function of the different molecules?
3) If true, can we reverse the different synaptic memories expressed in the same neuron by interfering with the function of the different molecules.

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Transcranial Brain Stimulation May Improve Cognition and Memory

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Michael CTrumbo
Sandia National Laboratories
Department of Psychology
Psychology Clinical Neuroscience Center
The University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 

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

Response: The impetus for this study can be found in claims made by several commercial enterprises that you can get cognitive benefits from brain training games intended to enhance working memory (the amount of information you can hold and manipulate in your mind at one time). However, a burgeoning body of research shows working memory training games often do not provide the benefits claimed. Research led by my colleague Laura Matzen shows evidence that working memory training may actually impair other kinds of memory.

A key concept in demonstrating improvement of the working memory system is task transfer – if working memory has been improved, then that improvement should be evident when attempting tasks aside from the trained task, to the extent that these new tasks utilize working memory. Brain stimulation combined with working memory training might work when training by itself falls short because stimulation allows for manipulation of brain plasticity in brain regions that are relevant to working memory task performance. If you’re improving connectivity in a brain region involved in working memory, then you should get transfer to other tasks to the extent that they rely on that same brain region. When you’re having people do tasks in the absence of brain stimulation, it’s not clear if you’re getting this general improvement in working memory brain areas. You might be getting very selective, task kind of improvements due to use of task-specific strategy development.

Therefore, the current study was designed to see if noninvasive brain stimulation paired with different types of working memory training might result in improvement not only in the trained task, but in related tasks. The findings suggest that particular parings of stimulation parameters and training programs result in working memory improvement. This is important because working memory is a critical component of many everyday tasks, such as reading and language comprehension, and working memory deficits are common in a number of disease states, such as depression. Working memory decline is also evident as part of the healthy aging process, beginning as early as your mid-20s. Therefore, a safe, reliable way to improve working memory stands to benefit both healthy and clinical populations in a variety of task domains which are critical to achieving a high quality of life.

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Doxycycline May Mute Painful Memories Associated With PTSD

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dominik R Bach, PhD, MD

University of Zurich

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

Response: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after a psychological trauma such as physical violence, abuse, or natural disaster. It is characterised by increased arousal, flashbacks, and nightmares that reflect memories of the trauma. Current therapies include talking therapy, but it is costly and does not work in everybody. This is why we were looking for ways of reducing aversive memories with a drug. In the current study, we found that the antibiotic doxycycline impairs the formation of negative memories in healthy volunteers.

To form memories, the brain needs to strengthen connections between neurons. It has recently emerged that for strengthening such connections particular proteins are required that sit between nerve cells, so-called MMPs. They are involved in many disorders outside the brain, such as certain cancers and heart disease. This is how we already know that doxycycline suppresses the activity of MMPs. Since doxycycline is relatively safe and readily accessible, our research was relatively straightforward.

76 healthy volunteers – half women, half men – came to the laboratory and received either placebo (a sugar pill) or 200 mg doxycycline. They then took part in a computer test in which one screen color was often followed by a mildly painful electric shock and another color was not.

A week later, volunteers came back to the lab. They were shown the colors again , this time followed by a loud sound but never by shocks. The loud sounds made people blink their eyes – a reflexive response to sudden threat. This eye blink response was measured. Volunteers who had initially been under placebo had stronger eye blink after the color that predicted electric shock than after the other color. This “fear response” is a sensitive measure for memory of negative associations. Strikingly, the fear response was 60% lower in participants who had initially taken doxycycline.

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More than a Feeling: Emotions Determine What You Remember

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Signy Sheldon, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Psychology McGill University Montreal, QC, CAN

Dr. Signy Sheldon

Signy Sheldon, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
McGill University
Montreal, QC, CAN

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

Response: It is clear to most people that emotion and memory are strongly linked – thinking about our past experiences is often accompanied with a strong feelings, sometimes good and sometimes bad.

In psychological research, many investigations have looked at how emotional memories are remembered differently than non-emotional memories. A lot of this research has found that the valence of a memory, whether it is positive or negative, will impact how detailed a past event can be recalled. Much less research as looked at how the emotions we feel at the time of remembering can also influence the way that memory is recalled. This is a very important area of research. If emotions during remembering can influence what memories are accessed and how we experience these memories, this would suggest that our memories are tagged and organized according to emotions.

In this study, we looked at how different aspects of emotion can affect the types of past experiences we bring to mind to further investigate how emotions direct memory retrieval.

To do this, we had participants listen to unfamiliar excerpts of music that ranged in both memory valence (positive and negative) and arousal (high or low levels). To each piece of music, participants were asked to think of a past memory and then describe their experience of that event they were remembering.

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Optical Manipulation May Be Able To Erase Fearful Memories

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Takuya Takahashi M.D. Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Physiology
Yokohama City University
Graduate School of Medicine
Yokohama Japan

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

Response: A number of patients suffer from traumatic fear memories (eg. PTSD). At this point, there exists no treatment to control aversive fear memories.

People can form aversive fear memory from traumatic events such as disasters and accidents. These fear memories can induce depression and anxiety disorders (eg. panic disorders). Therefore, it is crucial to understand the molecular mechanism underlying fear memory formation and this could lead to the invention of novel technology to control fear memories.

We have previously reported that the formation of fear memory modifies synapses by the incorporation of AMPA receptors at hippocampus. Further, this molecular events are required for the fear memory formation (Mitsushima et al. PNAS 2011, Mitsushima et al. Nature Communications 2013).

Here, we invented the novel technology to erase fear memory by the optical manipulation of AMPA receptor, an important molecule at glutamatergic synapses.

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Working Memory Changes Over Course of Childhood Development

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Shelley Gray PhD Professor, Speech and Hearing Department of Speech and Hearing Science Arizona State University Tempe, AZ

Dr. Shelley Gra

Dr. Shelley Gray PhD
Professor, Speech and Hearing
Department of Speech and Hearing Science
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ

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

Response: Working memory is the part of our human memory system that simultaneously processes and stores incoming information. It is important to understand the structure of working memory so that more tailored assessments and interventions can be developed to help children with poor working memory learn more successfully. In this study we tested four competing models of working memory in second grade students with typical development using the Comprehensive Assessment Battery for Children – Working Memory (CABC-WM; Gray, Alt, Hogan, Green, & Cowan, n.d.; Cabbage et al., in press).

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Active Memory Blocker Prevents Experiences During Sleep From Being Remembered

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Roi Levy
The Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center,
The Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences
Bar Ilan University
Ramat Gan, Israel

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

Response: Long-term memory after an experience takes many hours to be reach its final form. During the consolidation period, the nascent memory is labile: the consolidation can be interrupted by new experiences, or new experiences that are too insignificant to be remembered can capture the consolidation process, and thereby be remembered.

To avoid potentially maladaptive interactions between a new experience and consolidation, a major portion of the consolidation is deferred to the time in which we sleep, when new experiences are unlikely. For over 100 years, studies have demonstrated that sleep improves memory formation. More recent studies have shown that consolidation occurs during sleep, and that consolidation depends on the synthesis of products that support memory formation. Consolidation is unlikely to be shut off immediately when we are awakened from sleep. At this time, even a transient experience could capture the consolidation, leading to a long-lasting memory of an event that should not be remembered, or could interfere with the consolidation. We have identified a mechanism that prevents long-term memories from being formed by experiences that occur when awakened from sleep.

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Computerized Working Memory Training in Pediatric Sickle Cell Disease

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Steven J. Hardy, PhD Licensed Clinical Psychologist Divisions of Hematology and Oncology Children’s National Health System Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences Washington, DC

Dr. Steven J. Hardy

Steven J. Hardy, Phd
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Divisions of Hematology and Oncology
Children’s National Health System
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences Washington, DC

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

Response: Children with sickle cell disease exhibit neurocognitive deficits as a consequence of either silent or overt cerebral infarction or disease-related non-infarct central nervous system effects (likely resulting from chronic anemia and hypoxic events). These complications often lead to impairment in executive functioning (e.g., working memory, attention, inhibition, cognitive flexibility), which can make it difficult to focus in class, plan for long-term school projects, remember and carry out multi-step tasks or assignments, and stay organized. The literature on interventions to reduce neurocognitive sequelae of sickle cell disease is extremely limited.

Our research team investigated a promising home-based, computerized cognitive training program (Cogmed) involving repeated practice on performance-adapted exercises targeting working memory with a sample of youth (ages 7 – 16) with sickle cell disease. Of the participants who have enrolled in the study (n = 70), 49% exhibited working memory deficits (<25% in the general population have a working memory deficit) and were randomized to an eight-week waitlist or to begin Cogmed immediately. Participants who used Cogmed demonstrated significant improvements on multiple measures of working memory, while those randomized to the waitlist group only exhibited such improvements after receiving Cogmed. Approximately 25% of participants completed the recommended number of Cogmed sessions (20 – 25 sessions). However, analyses revealed that participants who completed at least 10 sessions (about 50% of the participants) showed comparable levels of working memory improvement.

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Menopause Has Variable Effect on Memory Decline in Women

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jill M. Goldstein, Ph.D.

Director of Research for the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology
Brigham and Women’s Hospital and
Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine at Harvard Medical School

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

Response: Maintaining intact memory function as we age is one of the primary public health challenges of our time. In fact, women are at almost twice the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and it is not only because women live longer. Thus, it is incumbent upon us to understand this sex difference and incorporate the knowledge into the development of sex-dependent therapeutics.

Our study focused on beginning this investigation by understanding how memory circuitry and memory function change over the menopausal transition, when we believe that sex differences in memory aging emerge. By understanding healthy aging, we will better understand how the brain goes awry with age differently in men and women and who might be at highest risk for Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

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Can Low Dose Oral Nicotine Have Beneficial Health Effects?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

U. H. Winzer-Serhan Ph.D. Associate Professor Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics Texas A&M Health Science Center

Dr. Ursula H. Winzer-Serhan

Ursala. H. Winzer-Serhan Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics
Texas A&M Health Science Center

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

Response: Nicotine is a plant alkaloid that is naturally occurring in the tobacco plant. Smoking delivers nicotine to the brain where it acts as a stimulant. Tobacco and electronic cigarette smoking delivers many other chemicals to the body, which are harmful and can cause cancer.

However, the drug nicotine by itself is relatively benign and poses few health risks for most people. Nicotine acts in the brain on nicotinic receptors, which are ion channels that are widely expressed in the brain. They play an important role in cognitive functions. Research with rodents and in humans has shown that nicotine can enhance learning and memory, and furthermore, can protect neurons during injuries and in the aging brain. With the increasingly older population, it becomes more and more important to delay cognitive decline in the elderly. Right now, there is no drug available that could delay aging of the brain.

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Mitochondrial Calcium Channel Necessary To Support Adult Memory

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ron L. Davis, PhD Professor and Chair Department of Neuroscience Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute

Dr. Ron Davis

Ron L. Davis, PhD Professor and Chair
Department of Neuroscience
Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute

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

Response: While calcium’s importance for our bones and teeth is well known, its role in neurons—in particular, its effects on processes such as learning and memory—has been less well defined. Our new study, published in the journal Cell Reports, offers new insights how calcium in mitochondria—the powerhouse of all cells—can impact the development of the brain and adult cognition.

Specifically, we show in fruit flies, a widely used model system, that blocking a channel that brings calcium to the mitochondria called “mitochondrial calcium uniporter” causes memory impairment but does not alter learning capacity. That surprised us – we thought they wouldn’t be able to learn at all. This is important because defects in the same calcium channel function have been shown to be associated with intellectual disability in humans.

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Calcium Channels in Mitochondria Appears Critical To Capacity For Memory

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ron L. Davis, PhD Professor and Chair Department of Neuroscience Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute

Dr. Ron L. Davis

Ron L. Davis, PhD Professor and Chair
Department of Neuroscience
Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute

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

Response: While calcium’s importance for our bones and teeth is well known, its role in neurons—in particular, its effects on processes such as learning and memory—has been less well defined. Our new study, published in the journal Cell Reports, offers new insights how calcium in mitochondria—the powerhouse of all cells—can impact the development of the brain and adult cognition.

Specifically, we show in fruit flies, a widely used model system, that blocking a channel that brings calcium to the mitochondria called “mitochondrial calcium uniporter” causes memory impairment but does not alter learning capacity. That surprised us – we thought they wouldn’t be able to learn at all. This is important because defects in the same calcium channel function have been shown to be associated with intellectual disability in humans.

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Memory Consolidation Enhanced By Weak Electrical Brain Stimulation

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Flavio Frohlich PhD Assistant Professor Departments of Psychiatry, Cell Biology and Physiology, Biomedical Engineering, and Neurology Neuroscience Centerm School of Medicine University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dr. Flavio Frohlich

Flavio Frohlich PhD
Assistant Professor
Departments of Psychiatry, Cell Biology and Physiology, Biomedical Engineering, and Neurology
Neuroscience Center School of Medicine
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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

Response: Although we do not understand why we sleep, it is clear that sleep is very important for overall well being and health. One of many likely functions of sleep is memory consolidation, the process of stabilizing previously acquired memories. In particular, a brief electric brain activity pattern called the sleep spindle has been shown to correlate with memory consolidation and learning in general. We asked if this brain rhythm causes memory consolidation by using non-invasive feedback brain stimulation to selectively enhance sleep spindles. We applied a weak electric current in the shape of a sleep spindle to the scalp each time our algorithm detected a sleep spindle in the EEG.

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Moderate Alcohol May Impair Short Term Memory In Older Adults

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jeff Boissoneault, PhD Research Assistant Professor Center for Pain Research and Behavioral Health Department of Clinical and Health Psychology University of FloridaJeff Boissoneault, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
Center for Pain Research and Behavioral Health
Department of Clinical and Health Psychology
University of Florida

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

Response: Many older adults are regular moderate drinkers. Although moderate drinking is considered to be a low risk behavior, growing evidence suggests older adults may be more susceptible to the cognitive and behavioral effects of moderate alcohol intake than younger people. We have previously shown that blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) below the legal limit for driving in the United States, 0.08 g/dL, affect working, or short-term, memory performance in older but not younger adults. For this study, we examined frontal theta power (FTP) and posterior alpha power (PAP), which are electrophysiological measures of brain activity associated with cognitive effort and maintenance of visual information, during a working memory task in both older and younger social drinkers.

We found that during a nine-second delay period during which participants held briefly-displayed images in memory, moderate alcohol intake increased PAP in younger adults but decreased PAP in older adults. Examining the relationship between PAP and behavioral performance (accuracy and reaction time) suggested older adults may attempt to compensate for moderate alcohol-induced working memory impairment by prioritizing quick responding over the protection of their mental representation of the task images from environmental distractions. Younger adults did not show this effect.

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Could Cinnamon May Improve Memory and Learning Ability?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Kalipada Pahan, Ph.D Floyd A. Davis, M.D., Endowed Chair of Neurology Professor, Departments of Neurological Sciences, Biochemistry and Pharmacology Rush University Medical Center VA Scientist Jesse Brown VA Medical Center Chicago, IL 60612

Dr. Kalipada Pahan

Kalipada Pahan, Ph.D
Floyd A. Davis, M.D., Endowed Chair of Neurology
Professor, Departments of Neurological Sciences, Biochemistry and Pharmacology
Rush University Medical Center
VA Scientist, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center
Chicago, IL 60612

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

Response: Individual difference in learning and educational performance is a global issue. In many cases between two students of the same background studying in the same class, one turns out to be a poor learner and does worse than the other academically. Little is known on what changes occur in the brain of poor learners and how to improve performance in poor learners. Here, we have demonstrated that cinnamon, a common food spice and flavoring material, converts poor learning mice to good learners. Results of the study were recently published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.

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Could Methylene Blue Improve Memory in Patients With Cognitive Impairment?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Timothy Q. Duong, Ph.D Stanley I. Glickman MD Professor of Ophthalmology, Radiology, and Physiology South Texas Veterans Health Care System, VA Southwest National Primate Research Center University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, Texas

Dr. Timothy Duong

Timothy Q. Duong, Ph.D
Stanley I. Glickman MD Professor of Ophthalmology, Radiology, and Physiology
South Texas Veterans Health Care System, VA Southwest National Primate Research Center
University of Texas Health Science Center
San Antonio, Texas

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

Response: A single oral dose of methylene blue increased fMRI response in the bilateral insular cortex during a task that measured reaction time to a visual stimulus. The fMRI results also showed an increased response during short-term memory tasks involving the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which controls processing of memories. Methylene blue was also associated with a 7 percent increase in correct responses during memory retrieval. The findings suggest that methylene blue can regulate certain brain networks related to sustained attention and short-term memory after a single oral low dose.

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Gene Variant May Predict Cannabis Users At Risk of Psychosis

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Prof. Celia Morgan PhD Professor of Psychopharmacology University of Exeter

Prof. Celiai Morgan

Prof. Celia Morgan PhD
Professor of Psychopharmacology
University of Exeter 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Morgan: We know cannabis increases the risk of psychosis but it is unclear how we can predict who is vulnerable to these negative effects.

This study suggested that cannabis may have stronger effects in people carrying a particular genetic variant. This might be related to their risk of developing psychosis.

We also found that women are more susceptible to the short term memory impairing effects of cannabis.

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Reading Difficulties May Complicate Identification of Early Alzheimer’s Disease

Brian K. Lebowitz

Dr. Lebowitz

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Brian K. Lebowitz, PhD ABPP-CN
DIRECTOR OF NEUROPSYCHOLOGY TRAINING
Clinical Neuropsychologist
Clinical Assistant Professor, Neurology
Stony Brook University Medical Center

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Lebowitz: As a lifespan neuropsychologist, my clinical work involves evaluating cognitive concerns in both children and adults.  We know that children with learning disorders, such as dyslexia, often demonstrate difficulties on neuropsychological tests that are seemingly unrelated to reading.  For example, children with dyslexia may have difficulty with auditory processing and short-term memory.  We also know that, for many individuals, learning disorders remain present throughout the lifespan.  Despite awareness of the relationship between reading disorder and other areas of cognitive weakness, many clinicians who work with older adults do not routinely ask about academic/neurodevelopmental history.  Further, little research has assessed the potential impact of lifelong learning disorder on later life neuropsychological test performance. Our study attempted to assess whether or not a history of possible reading disorder increased the likelihood that an individual’s performance would fall at a level suggestive of possible Mild Cognitive Impairment MCI), a diagnosis associated with increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.  Individuals with MCI continue to function normally in everyday life but experience subjective memory problems and identified weaknesses on neuropsychological tests.  Our study found a strong relationship between poor reading ability and low memory test scores on two tests commonly used to evaluate memory complaints in older adults.  Depending on the test, individuals with a suspected reading disorder were two to three-and-one-half times more likely than their peers to score at a level indicative of Mild Cognitive Impairment.

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Patients with Colon Cancer May Have Memory and Cognitive Impairments

Dr Janette Vardy  BMed (Hons), PhD, FRACP A.Prof of Cancer Medicine University of Sydney Medical Oncologist ,Concord Cancer Centre Concord Repatriation & General Hospital Concord, Australia

Dr. Vardy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Janette Vardy  BMed (Hons), PhD, FRACP

A.Prof of Cancer Medicine
University of Sydney
Medical Oncologist ,Concord Cancer Centre
Concord Repatriation & General Hospital
Concord, Australia 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Vardy: Many patients complain that their memory and concentration is not as good after chemotherapy.  Most of the studies have been in younger women with breast cancer, and are often limited by small sample sizes and short term follow up.    This is the largest longitudinal cohort study assessing impacts of cancer and its treatment on cognitive function.

We evaluated changes in cognitive function in 289 men and women with localized colorectal cancer (CRC), comparing those who received chemotherapy to those who did not require chemotherapy, 73 with metastatic disease, and a group of 72 healthy controls.?The localized CRC patients were assessed at baseline (soon after diagnosis and prior to any chemotherapy), 6, 12 and 24 months.  The healthy controls and metastatic group were assessed at baseline, 6 and 12 months.  We also examined underlying mechanisms.

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Working Memory Problems Can Persist Into Adulthood in Children with ADHD

Dr. Graham Murray PhD University Lecturer Department of Psychiatry Addenbrooke's Hospital Cambridge UKMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Graham Murray PhD
University Lecturer
Department of Psychiatry
Addenbrooke’s Hospital
Cambridge UK

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Murray: There is debate about the extent to which ADHD persists into adulthood, with estimates suggesting that between 10-50% of children still have ADHD in adulthood. Diagnosis (whether in childhood or adulthood) is currently reliant on meeting symptom checklists (such as the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), and a current diagnosis is often the prerequisite to access health care from psychiatric services. We decided to follow up a sample of 49 teens who all had a confirmed diagnosis of ADHD at age 16. We also followed a control group made up of comparison healthy volunteers from the same social, ethnic and geographical background.

When we used the symptom checklist criteria of persistence, only 10% of patients still met ADHD diagnostic criteria in adulthood. However, there is more to ADHD than this. When it comes to adult brain structure and function, it didn’t make any difference whether symptom checklists were still met or not. On reaching adulthood, the adolescent ADHD group show reduced brain volume in the caudate nucleus – a key brain region that supports a host of cognitive functions, including working memory function. When we assessed working memory ability, we noted persistent problems in the adolescent ADHD group, with a third of the adolescent ADHD sample failing the memory test. The poor memory scores seemed to relate to a lack of responsiveness in the activity of the caudate nucleus that we could detect using functional MRI scans. In the control group, when the memory questions became more difficult, the caudate nucleus became more active, and this appeared to help the control group perform well; in the adolescent ADHD group, the caudate nucleus kept the same level of activity throughout the test. It was as if, for the controls, when the test got harder, the caudate nucleus went up a gear in its activity, and this is likely to have helped solve the memory problems. But for the adolescence ADHD group, the caudate couldn’t go up a gear when the test became harder, and this likely resulted in poorer performance.  Continue reading

Commercial Brain Training Device Reduces Working Memory

Laura Steenbergen, MSc., PhD Candidate Cognitive Psychology at Institute of Psychology Leiden UniversityMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Laura Steenbergen, MSc., PhD Candidate
Cognitive Psychology at Institute of Psychology
Leiden University 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: A recent initiative supported by several eminent research institutes and scientists calls for a more critical and active role of the scientific community in evaluating the sometimes far-reaching, sweeping claims from the brain training industry with regard to the impact of their products on cognitive performance. tDCS is a noninvasive brain stimulation technique that has developed into a promising tool to boost human cognition. Previous studies using medical tDCS devices have shown that tDCS promotes working memory (WM) updating in healthy individuals and patients. The aim of the current study was to investigate whether the commercial tDCS headset foc.us (v.1), which is easily and freely available to anyone in the world, does in fact improve cognitive performance, as advertised in the media. Results showed that active stimulation with the commercial device, compared to sham stimulation, significantly decreased working memory performance. The device we tested is just one example of a commercial device that can easily be purchased and, without any control or expert knowledge, used by anyone. The results of our study are straightforward in showing that the claims made by companies manufacturing such devices need to be validated. Even if the consequences of long-term or frequent use of the device are yet to be demonstrated, our findings provide strong support the important role of the scientific community in validating and testing far reaching claims made by the brain training industry.

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Lack of Sleep May Impair Memory Functions In Stressful Situations

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jonathan Cedernaes M.D., Ph.D. Department of Neuroscience Uppsala University Sweden
Jonathan Cedernaes M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Neuroscience
Uppsala University
Sweden

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Cedernaes: Sleep is known to facilitate the formation of long-term memory in humans, by transferring newly learned memories from short-term to long-term memory stores. Studies however indicate that even shorter periods of sleep – including naps – can ensure access to different types of memories under normal restful conditions. Furthermore, while some studies have shown that acute sleep loss can exacerbate e.g. physiological responses to acute stress, it it has not been studied whether shortened sleep in combination with acute cognitive stress can have a negative impact on the retrieval of newly learned memories.

With this background in mind, we conducted a study where we aimed to investigate how nocturnal sleep duration impacts this memory transfer, and to what extent long-term memories formed by sleep remain accessible after acute cognitive stress.

We recruited 15 participants who in each of two sessions first underwent a learning session in the evening, during which they learned 15 card pair locations on a computer screen. Then, in one of the two experimental session, subjects slept for half a night (4-hr), instead being able to sleep for a full night (8-hr) in the other session. On the morning after each sleep condition, we had the subjects try to recall as many card pair locations as possible. We found that following half a night of sleep (4-hr), participants were equally able to recall memories for the learned card pair locations, as after a full night of sleep (8-hr). However, we also showed that the ability to retrieve memories following 30 minutes of acute stress, in the morning after these two sleep conditions, was different depending on whether the participants had slept for 8 or 4 hours. Following short sleep, the 30-min long stress exposure reduced the participants’ ability to recall the card pair locations that the participants had learned the previous night by around 10%. In contrast, no such stress-induced memory impairment was observed when the same men were allowed to sleep for a full night.

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Deep Brain Stimulation Has Potential to Treat Dementia and Memory Loss

Associate Professor Lim Lee Wei (Sunway University, Malaysia) and Assistant Professor Ajai Vyas (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) discover a new treatment using deep brain stimulation of the Prefrontal Cortex for dementia.

Associate Professor Lim Lee Wei (Sunway University, Malaysia) and Assistant Professor Ajai Vyas (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) discover a new treatment using deep brain stimulation of the Prefrontal Cortex for dementia.

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Lim Lee Wei
School of Biological Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore;
Department of Biological Sciences, Sunway University, Malaysia

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: To date, pharmacological treatments for dementia have limited effects (most of the drugs failed in the second or third clinical trials) and there are no known treatments that cure or delay the progression of this memory impairment. Therefore, a novel non-pharmacological approach such as deep brain stimulation (DBS) is currently considered as an alternative treatment to reduce the symptomatic and progression of this memory deterioration.

Deep brain stimulation for dementia-related disease is currently evaluated as a potential therapy. In line with this development, evidence from recent studies suggests that deep brain stimulation might enhance memory functions when particular brain areas are stimulated. Of particular interest in our study, electrical stimulation of the Prefrontal Cortex induced striking antidepressant activity in both patients and animals studies (see our recent study, Lim et al., 2015 Translational Psychiatry; http://www.nature.com/tp/journal/v5/n3/full/tp201524a.html). However, no studies have shown the putative role of Prefrontal Cortex deep brain stimulation in learning and memory performance. In our finding, we have shown that deep brain stimulation of this region (Prefrontal Cortex) improved the short-term and long-term memory by a very important mechanism, which led to the formation of new brain cells in another region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is also involved in memory. Therefore, our findings suggest that deep brain stimulation of the Prefrontal Cortex has the potential to be developed into a therapy to treat dementia and other conditions that lead to memory loss in humans.

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Cognitive Function Test Helps Predict Future Memory Loss

Dr. Rebecca E. Amariglio Ph.D. Massachusetts Alzheimers Disease Research Center Massachusetts General HospitalMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Rebecca E. Amariglio Ph.D.
Massachusetts Alzheimers Disease Research Center
Massachusetts General Hospital

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Amariglio: As the field of Alzheimer’s disease moves towards early detection and treatment, new tests that can measure very subtle changes in cognitive functioning are needed. A new instrument developed by the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study that measures subjective report of memory changes of both the study participant and a study partner (usually a family member) was associated with cognitive decline over four years.  Specifically, greater report of memory concerns was associated with worse memory performance over time.
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Resveratrol In Food May Help Maintain Memory and Mood Function in Old Age

Ashok K. Shetty, Ph.D. Professor and Director of Neurosciences Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine
Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, Temple, TX
Research Career Scientist, Central Texas Veterans Health Care System (CTVHCS), Temple, TXMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Ashok K. Shetty, Ph.D.
Professor and Director of Neurosciences
Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine
Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, Temple, TX
Research Career Scientist, Central Texas Veterans Health Care System (CTVHCS), Temple, TX

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Prof. Shetty: Hippocampus is a region in the brain important for maintaining functions such as learning, memory and mood. However, this region is highly vulnerable to aging and brain insults. Previous research has shown that diminished function in the dentate gyrus region of the hippocampus is one of the key reasons for memory impairments seen in old age. Dentate gyrus is also one of the few regions in the brain where neural stem cells generate new neurons on a daily basis, also referred to as “adult neurogenesis”. Studies have suggested that a significant fraction of newly born neurons mature, get incorporated into the existing hippocampus circuitry and contribute to learning, formation of new memories, and normal mood. However, with aging, the dentate gyrus shows decreased function with some conspicuous structural changes, which include reduced production of new neurons, diminished microvasculature implying reduced blood flow, and occurrence of hypertrophy of astrocytes and activated microglia, signs of chronic low-level inflammation. Because alterations such as reduced neurogenesis, decreased blood flow and brain inflammation can contribute to memory and mood impairments, the idea that drugs that are efficacious for mitigating these changes may preserve memory and mood function in old age has emerged. Such drugs may be prescribed to the aging population if they are efficacious for maintaining normal cognitive and mood function in old age with no or minimal side effects.

Medical Research: What is the rationale for choosing resveratrol for preventing age-related memory dysfunction in this study?

Prof. Shetty:  Administration of resveratrol, a naturally occurring polyphenol found in the skin of red grapes, red wine, peanuts and some berries, appeared suitable for counteracting age-related detrimental changes in the hippocampus. This is because, previous studies have shown that resveratrol has ability to promote the formation of new capillaries (through pro-angiogenic effects) and to suppress oxidative stress and inflammation (via antioxidant and antiinflammatory effects) with no adverse side effects. Other studies have also reported that resveratrol can mediate extension of the life span and delayed onset of age related diseases. More importantly, a recent human study suggested that a reasonably lower dose of resveratrol intake for 26 weeks is good enough to improve memory performance as well as hippocampus functional connectivity in 23 healthy overweight older individuals (Witte et al., J. Neurosci., 34: 7862-7870, 2014).

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Community Based Memory Testing Provides Useful Screening Information

dr-peter-bayleyMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Peter Bayley PhD
War Related Illness and Injury Study Center
Veteran Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System
Palo Alto, California

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

Dr. Bayley: There is currently widespread interest and debate surrounding the topic of screening for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia The study describes results from National Memory Screening Day in 2010, an annual community event sponsored by the Alzheimer Foundation of America. Face-to-face screening takes place in a private setting; only the individual being tested and the screener are present. The memory screening consists of one of seven validated cognitive tests: the GPCOG (General Practitioner Assessment of Cognition), MINI-COG, MIS (Memory Impairment Screen), the BAS (Brief Alzheimer’s Screening), Kokmen Short Test of Mental Status, Mini-Mental State Examination, Montreal Cognitive Assessment, or the Saint Louis University Mental Status Examination.  Participants with scores below cutoff for possible dementia are encouraged to bring the results to their healthcare professional for follow-up and/or inclusion in medical files.

We report the results from a subset of 3,064 participants. Overall, 11.7% failed one of the memory screening tests. As expected, failure rates were higher in older and less-educated participants (P’s < .05). Subjective memory concerns were associated with a 40% greater failure rate for persons of similar age and education but no memory concerns (odds ratio = 1.4, 95% confidence interval = 1.07–1.78). However, most individuals who expressed concern about their memories passed the screening tests (54-96%, depending on age and education).

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Cardiorespiratory Fitness May Slow Memory Loss In Older Adults

Scott M. Hayes, Ph.D. Associate Director Neuroimaging Research for Veterans Center Memory Disorders Research Center VA Boston Healthcare System Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Boston University School of MedicineMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Scott M. Hayes, Ph.D. Associate Director

Neuroimaging Research for Veterans Center
Memory Disorders Research Center
VA Boston Healthcare System
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Boston University School of Medicine

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Hayes:   Studies with rodents have demonstrated that physical activity positively impacts memory, whereas human studies have tended to emphasize a relationship with executive function—which refers to one’s ability to plan, organize, and manipulate information in one’s mind.  To clarify the relationship between fitness, cognition, and aging, we directly assessed cardiorespiratory fitness (heart and lung function) using the gold standard in the field, a graded treadmill test, and assessed both memory and executive functions in young and older adults.  Our results showed that cardiorespiratory fitness was positively associated with memory and executive functions in older adults, but not young adults.  In fact, on tests of executive functions, older adults with higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness performed as well as younger adults. The impact of cardiorespiratory fitness may be age-dependent.  Young adults, who are at their peak in terms of memory performance, may exhibit minimal associations with cardiorespiratory fitness.  In contrast, cardiorespiratory fitness likely has a larger impact in older adults by attenuating age-related decline in memory.

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Complaints of Memory Loss May Signal Increased Stroke Risk

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
M. Arfan Ikram, MD, PhD,and Ayesha Sajjad, MD

Department of Epidemiology
Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The occurrence of cognitive impairment and dementia after a stroke event are already known. Since these neuro-degenerative processes and stroke share vascular pathways in their pathogenesis such as small vessel disease, we aimed to study whether early cognitive impairment can be predictive of stroke onset in the elderly. We also hypothesized that a higher cognitive reserve (due to higher education attainment) may mask early symptoms of memory loss and thus put these older individuals at a higher risk of stroke. We found that self-reported subjective memory complaints as answered by a single question: “ Do you have memory complaints?” was highly predictive of stroke especially in older persons who were highly educated. In comparison, objective measures of cognitive impairment such as MMSE did not show any association with the risk of stroke.

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Chromosomal Location of Exceptional Memory Identified

Sandra Barral Rodriguez, Ph.D Assistant Professor G. H. Sergievsky Center & Taub Institute Columbia University Medical Center New York, NY 10032MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Sandra Barral Rodriguez, Ph.D

Assistant Professor
G. H. Sergievsky Center & Taub Institute
Columbia University Medical Center
New York, NY 10032

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Barral: We already know that there is a substantial genetic contribution to the variability observed in different cognitive tasks including memory performance. Previous work reported heritability estimates for episodic memory ranging between 30% and 60%. However, we can’t fully explain why some individuals demonstrate a better memory performance in late life, while others do not.

We have previously defined a cognitive endophenotype based on exceptional episodic memory performance (EEM) and demonstrated that there is a familial aggregation of EEM in families selected on their basis of their exceptional survival, the Long Life Family Study. We performed genome-wide linkage analysis of long-lived families selected on the basis of their exceptional episodic memory and the follow-up SNP association analysis with episodic memory in four independent cohorts of more than 4,000 non-demented elderly cohorts.

Our results provide strong evidence for potential candidate genes related to exceptional episodic memory on 6q24.

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Traumatic Brain Injury: Link Between Cognitive Reserve and Long-Term Memory Impairment

Joshua Sandry, Ph.D. Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research Kessler Foundation, West Orange, NJ Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Rutgers New Jersey Medical SchoolMedicalResearch.com Interview with
Joshua Sandry, Ph.D.
Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research
Kessler Foundation, West Orange, NJ
Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Sandry: We were interested in better understanding the relationship between cognitive reserve and long-term memory impairment in moderate to severe Traumatic Brain Injury, from a cognitive perspective. The theory of cognitive reserve suggests that individuals who engage in intellectually enriching activities may be less susceptible to the negative cognitive consequences of long-term memory impairment that often accompanies neurological disorders. There’s significant evidence in support of cognitive reserve; however, it’s somewhat unclear what particular cognitive processes are involved in this relationship and how those cognitive processes may differ across high and low reserve individuals. We derived our predictions on the basis of well-established cognitive theory and found that working memory capacity partially mediates the cognitive reserve – long-term memory relationship in Traumatic Brain Injury. Or to put it another way, working memory may be one underlying cognitive process involved in this relationship. Importantly, this finding corroborates some recent related work we have conducted in multiple sclerosis.

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Lower Calorie Diets May Slow Aging and Memory Loss

Stephen D. Ginsberg, Ph.D., Associate Professor Departments of Psychiatry and Physiology & Neuroscience New York University Langone Medical Center Center for Dementia Research Nathan Kline Institute Orangeburg, NY  10962MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Stephen D. Ginsberg, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Departments of Psychiatry and Physiology & Neuroscience
New York University Langone Medical Center
Center for Dementia Research
Nathan Kline Institute Orangeburg, NY  10962

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Ginsberg: We tested the hypothesis that long-term calorie restriction positively alters gene expression within the hippocampus, a critical learning and memory area vulnerable in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. To test this hypothesis, we conducted experiments on female mice that were given food pellets 30% lower in calories than what was fed to the control group. The mice ate fewer calories derived from carbohydrates. Analyses were performed on mice in middle and old age to assess any differences in gene expression over time. Our data analysis revealed that the mice that were fed a lower calorie diet had fewer changes in approximately 900 genes that are linked to aging and memory. Continue reading

Study Enhances Understanding of Genetic Mechanisms of Memory

Vijay Ramanan, PhD Indiana University Center for Neuroimaging (CfN) Department of Radiology Indianapolis, IN 46202MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Vijay Ramanan, PhD
Indiana University Center for Neuroimaging (CfN)
Department of Radiology
Indianapolis, IN 46202

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Ramanan: Impairment in episodic memory is one of the first clinical deficits in early Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia.  Among other examples, this might be reflected as an inability to recall an article recently read or as difficulty remembering what one had for dinner last night.  Unfortunately, the genetic and environmental mechanisms underlying these deficits are not fully understood.  Our goal was to discover new genes and pathways underlying memory performance to help identify potential drug targets for protecting against and ultimately reversing memory loss in dementia and normal aging.

Through studying a large representative sample of older Americans, we discovered a variant (single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP) in the FASTKD2 gene associated with better memory performance and replicated this finding in independent samples.  We then integrated additional data to extend our understanding of the effect of this SNP.  For example, we know that the hippocampus is a vital brain structure for encoding and retrieving memories and it is well-understood that decreased hippocampal volume is a key early marker of Alzheimer’s disease and one that can be measured noninvasively through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).  We predicted that this new memory-protective SNP would be associated with increased hippocampal volume and this turned out to be true.  We also discovered that carriers of this memory-protective SNP exhibited lower levels of proteins involved in cell death in the cerebrospinal fluid bathing the brain and spinal cord, a striking finding given that FASTKD2 encodes a protein that appears to promote apoptosis (i.e., programmed cell death).  Together, these convergent findings are consistent with a neuroprotective effect of this novel SNP discovery.  More broadly, our results nominate FASTKD2 and its functional pathways as potential targets for modulating neurodegeneration to combat memory loss in older adults.

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Sleep Deprivation: Specific Molecular Changes Lead To Memory Impairment

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jennifer Choi Tudor, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow
Ted Abel Lab Department of Biology 10-17
Smilow Center for Translational Research
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Tudor: We (Dr. Tudor, Dr. Abel, and colleagues) are interested in better understanding the molecular changes that occur with sleep deprivation.  Previously, we found that the expression of over 500 genes changes with sleep deprivation and that many of the genes were involved with protein synthesis.  Upon further investigation, we found that 5 hours of sleep deprivation impairs protein synthesis in the hippocampus, a brain region critical for memory.  This impairment is due to changes in mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling and eukaryotic initiation factor 4E binding protein 2 (4EBP2) is critical to this process.  When we boosted levels of 4EBP2 in the hippocampus, mice that were sleep deprived were resistant to the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on memory.
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Cocoa Flavenols May Improve Age-Related Memory Decline

Scott A. Small, MD Boris and Rose Katz Professor of Neurology Division of Aging and Dementia Director, Alzheimer's Disease Research Center Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain Department of Neurology, Columbia University New York, New YorkMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Scott A. Small, MD
Boris and Rose Katz Professor of Neurology
Division of Aging and Dementia
Director, Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center
Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain Department of Neurology, Columbia University New York, NY

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Small: Previous work, including from my lab, had shown that changes in a specific part of the brain—the dentate gyrus—are associated with age-related memory decline. Until now, however, the evidence in humans showed only a correlational link, not a causal one. To see if the dentate gyrus is the source of age-related memory decline in humans, we tested whether compounds called cocoa flavanols can improve the function of this brain region and improve memory. Flavanols extracted from cocoa beans had previously been found to improve neuronal connections in the dentate gyrus of mice.
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Adequate Sleep May Help Preserve Memory at Older Ages

dr_elizabeth_devoreMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Elizabeth Devore, ScD
Associate Epidemiologist
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School

 

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Devore: In this study, we examined sleep duration and memory performance in a group of ~15,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study. We found that women with sleep durations of 5 or fewer hours/day or 9 or more hours/day, either in midlife or later life, had worse memory at older ages than those sleeping 7 hours/day. In addition, women with sleep durations that changed by two or more hours/day from midlife to later life performed worse on memory tests compared to those whose sleep duration did not change during that time period.The magnitude of these memory differences was approximately equivalent to being 1-2 years older in age.

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Aerobic Exercise May Increase Memory Performance

Teresa Liu-Ambrose, PhD, PT Associate Professor Canada Research Chair Department of Physical Therapy Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute & University of British Columbia Vancouver, BCMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Teresa Liu-Ambrose, PhD, PT
Associate Professor, Canada Research Chair
Department of Physical Therapy
Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory
Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute & University of British Columbia Vancouver, BC

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Liu-Ambrose:    With respect to dementia risk, the hippocampus is a brain structure of intense interest. We demonstrated that six months of 2x/week aerobic training significantly increased hippocampal volume in older women with probable mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Notably, we observed a 4 percent increase in the total hippocampal volume. This is equivalent to reversing age-related loss in hippocampal volume by more than two years.

MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Liu-Ambrose: While we previously reported that six months of 2x/week aerobic training significantly increased memory performance in the same sample of older women with MCI, in this analysis, we found that increased hippocampal volume was associated with reduced verbal learning and memory performance. This finding suggests that the relationship between change in brain structural volume and change in cognitive performance is complex, likely not at a 1:1 relationship, and required further research

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Liu-Ambrose: Our research suggests that twice-weekly aerobic exercise can positively impact hippocampal volume – a structure essential for memory and yet, sensitive to both aging and neurodegeneration – among older adults at risk for dementia . Therefore, we recommend that exercise should be included in the management plan of older adults at risk for cognitive decline.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Liu-Ambrose: Future research should focus on comparing the effects of different types of exercise training as well as combined training on both cognitive and brain health. More research is also needed to examine whether the benefit of exercise is evident among different neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease). Lastly, more research examining the underlying mechanisms by which different types of exercise benefits the brain is needed.

Citation:

Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probable mild cognitive impairment: a 6-month randomised controlled trial

 

Memory Performance: Negatively Impacted by Higher Glucose, even in Non-Diabetics

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Lucia Kerti MA
From the Departments of Neurology
Charité–University Medicine, Berlin

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: The results of our study on 141 healthy older people suggest that chronically higher blood glucose levels may have a negative influence on memory performance even in the absence of type 2 diabetes or even pre-diabetes. Moreover, our findings indicate that elevated blood glucose levels  impair the functioning of brain areas like the hippocampus, a structure particularly relevant for memory. An important novel aspect in our study was the additional analysis of diffusion tensor imaging-based mean diffusivity within the hippocampal, which allowed us to  obtain information on microstructure.  We here provided first-time data of an association between higher blood glucose levels and lower hippocampal microstructure. Decreased hippocampal microstructure as measured by mean diffusivity may reflect a disruption of neuronal membranes and increased extracellular water content, leading to decreased signaling within and between hippocampal cells. Thus, information transfer between cells, indispensable for memory encoding, storage and retrieval, would be compromised. In sum, our data suggest that chronically higher blood glucose levels even within the “normal range” may decrease memory functions, possibly in part mediated by microstructural changes within the hippocampus.

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Episodic Memory Impairments and Tip-of-Tongue Experiences

Prof. Timothy Salthouse Brown-Forman Professor of Psychology Department of Psychology University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA 22904-4400MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Prof. Timothy Salthouse
Brown-Forman Professor of Psychology
Department of Psychology
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4400
MedicalResearch.com: What prompted this work?

Prof. Salthouse: I think it is noteworthy that the research originated as an undergraduate project by Arielle Mandell. Ms. Mandell was supported by a University of Virginia Harrison Undergraduate Research Award while she was doing the research, and a report of the research served as her Distinguished Major Thesis.

The research was prompted by the observation that according to self-reports, tip-of-the-tongue experiences occur more and more frequently with increased age, and often seem to be associated with concerns about memory decline and possibly impending dementia. We wondered

  1. 1) whether these self-reports are valid, and
  2. 2) if they are valid, do they truly indicate age-related failures of the type of memory used in the diagnosis of dementia.

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Gene Predisposes Some to Focus on the Negative

Dr. Rebecca Todd Assistant Professor University of British Columbia Department of Psychology Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability 4342A-2260 West Mall Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Rebecca Todd
Assistant Professor
University of British Columbia
Department of Psychology
Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability
4342A-2260 West Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: What we found, in essence, is that some individuals are genetically predisposed to see the world more darkly than others. We find that a common gene variant is linked to perceiving emotional events –especially negative ones –¬ more vividly than others. This gene variant has been previously linked (by other researchers) to emotional memory and the likelihood of experiencing intrusive, or “flashback” memories following traumatic experience. Our findings suggest that in healthy young adults this enhanced emotional memory may be because individuals are more likely to perceive what’s emotionally relevant in the first place. We’ve all heard of rose colored glasses, but this is more like gene-colored glasses, tinted a bit darkly. Continue reading

Methamphetamine: Research Aims to Disrupt Drug-Associated Memories

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ph.D., Neurobiology & Behavior and Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory (2005), University of California, Irvine, CaliforniaCourtney A. Miller, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Metabolism & Aging
Department of Neuroscience
The Scripps Research Institute
Jupiter, FL 33458


MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Miller: The relapse rate for drug abusers, smokers and alcoholics is high because abstinence is so difficult. A major factor is the craving that drug associations can trigger. These range from seeing the neighborhood where someone used to buy, in the case of illicit drugs, to social drinking for a smoker. We’ve found a way to disrupt these drug-associated memories without affecting other, more benign memories.
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Intrusive Memories found more commonly during 3rd week of Menstrual cycle

Dr Sunjeev Kamboj

Lecturer in Clinical Psychology
Co-ordinator for International DClinPsy Trainees
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/clinical-psychology/index.htm

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Kamboj: Using a fairly standard approach for this type of research, we measured the frequency of intrusive memories in normal, healthy women after they watched a series of video clips containing distressing scenes. We also measured baseline levels of progesterone and estrogen. We tested three groups of women who, while similar in all respects such age, education level, as well as how they responded to the film, differed in terms of the stage of the menstrual cycle they were in.

Our key finding was that women in the ‘early luteal phase’ – which occurs in the third week of the cycle – had three times as many intrusive memories about the video than women in the first two weeks or fourth week of the cycle.

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Interpolated memory tests reduce mind wandering and improve learning of online lectures


Karl K. Szpunar PhD Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138MedicalResearch.com Interview with Karl K. Szpunar PhD

Department of Psychology,
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138

MedicalResearch.com:   What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Szpunar: The results of our experiments demonstrate that students can have difficulty paying attention to online lectures, and that including brief quizzes during lectures can help to alleviate this problem. Specifically, we found that students who were tested throughout a 21-minute long Statistics lecture were half as likely to mind wander during the lecture, three times as likely to take additional notes, and much better able to retain the contents of the lecture at a later time.
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