Brain Aging Impacted by Modifiable Risk Factors

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Carla R. Schubert, MS

Researcher,  EpiSense Research Program
Dept. of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
School of Medicine and Public Health
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI  53726-2336 

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

Response: Mildlife is an important time-period for health later in life and also when declines in sensory and cognitive functions may begin to occur. Hearing, vision and smell impairments have been associated with cognitive impairments in older adults and with worse cognitive function in middle-aged adults.  These associations may be reflecting the close integration of sensory and cognitive systems as both require good brain function.

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Daytime Light Important For Brain Health

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Lily Yan MD PhD Department of Psychology & Neuroscience Program Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 48824 

Dr. Lily Yan

Dr. Lily Yan MD PhD
Department of Psychology & Neuroscience Program
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824 

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

  • The effects of light on cognitive function have been well-documented in human studies, with brighter illumination associated with better cognitive performance. However, the underlying neural mechanisms are not well understood.
  • In this study, we explored the mechanisms of how light modulates spatial learning and memory, using diurnal Nile grass rats. In contrast to most laboratory animals that are active at night and fall asleep following light exposure, these animals are active during the day, thus an ideal model for understanding the effects of light on humans.
  • When the animals were housed in dim light during the day, mimicking the cloudy days or typical indoor lighting, the animals had a ~30% reduction in the dendritic spines, which make the connection between brain cells, within the hippocampus, a brain region critical for learning and memory. Animals housed in dim light also performed poorly in a water maze, compared to those housed in bright light.
  • When the animals that had been in dim light were then housed in bright light for 4 weeks, the connections in their hippocampus and performance in the water maze recovered fully. 

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