Memory biomarkers confirm aerobic exercise helps cognitive function in older adults

Memory biomarkers confirm aerobic exercise helps cognitive function in older adults

The enhanced physical activity group underwent 26 weeks of supervised treadmill training. Blood samples for both groups were taken at baseline and after 26 weeks. Credit: Florida Atlantic University Increasing evidence shows that physical activity and exercise training may delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In aging humans, aerobic exercise training increases gray and white matter volume, enhances blood flow, and improves memory function. The ability to measure the effects of exercise on systemic biomarkers associated with risk for AD and relating them to key metabolomic alterations may further prevention, monitoring, and treatment efforts. However, systemic biomarkers that can measure exercise effects on brain function and that link to relevant metabolic responses are lacking.

To address this issue, Henriette van Praag, Ph.D., from Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine and Brain Institute and Ozioma Okonkwo, Ph.D., Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and Department of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and their collaborators, tested the hypotheses that three specific biomarkers, which are implicated in learning and memory, would increase in older adults following exercise training and correlate with cognition and metabolomics markers of brain health. They examined myokine Cathepsin B (CTSB), brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and klotho, as well as metabolomics, which have become increasingly utilized to understand biochemical pathways that may be affected by AD.

Researchers performed a metabolomics analysis in blood samples of 23 asymptomatic late middle-aged adults, with familial and genetic risk for AD (mean age 65 years old, 50 percent female) who participated in the “aeRobic Exercise And Cognitive Health (REACH) Pilot Study” (NCT02384993) at the University of Wisconsin. The participants were divided into two groups: usual physical activity (UPA) and enhanced physical activity (EPA). The EPA group underwent 26 weeks of supervised treadmill training. Blood samples for both groups were taken at baseline and after 26 weeks.

Results of the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology , showed that plasma CTSB levels were increased following this 26-week structured aerobic exercise training in older adults at risk for AD. Verbal learning and memory correlated positively with change in CTSB but was not related to BDNF or klotho. The present correlation between CTSB and verbal learning and memory suggests that CTSB may be useful as a marker for cognitive changes relevant to hippocampal function after exercise in a population at risk for dementia.

Plasma BDNF levels decreased in conjunction with metabolomic changes, including reductions in ceramides, sphingo- and phospholipids, as well as changes in gut microbiome metabolites and redox homeostasis. Indeed, multiple lipid metabolites relevant to AD were modified by exercise in a manner that may be neuroprotective. Serum klotho was unchanged but was associated with cardiorespiratory fitness.

“Our findings position CTSB, BDNF, and klotho as exercise biomarkers for evaluating the effect of lifestyle interventions on brain function ,” said van Praag, corresponding author, an associate professor of biomedical science, FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine, and a member of the FAU Brain Institute and the FAU Institute for Human Health & Disease Intervention (I-HEALTH). “Human studies often utilize expensive and low throughput brain imaging analyses that are not practical for large population-wide studies. Systemic biomarkers that can measure the effect of exercise interventions on Alzheimer’s-related outcomes quickly and at low-cost could be used to inform disease progression and to develop novel therapeutic targets.”

CTSB, a lysosomal enzyme, is secreted from muscle into circulation after exercise and is associated with memory function and adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Older adults with cognitive impairment have lower serum and brain CTSB levels. BDNF is a protein that is upregulated in the rodent hippocampus and cortex by running and is important for adult neurogenesis, synaptic plasticity, and memory function . Klotho is a circulating protein that can enhance cognition and synaptic function and is associated with resilience to neurodegenerative disease, possibly by supporting brain structures responsible for memory and learning.

“The positive association between CTSB and cognition, and the substantial modulation of lipid metabolites implicated in dementia, support the beneficial effects of exercise training on brain function and brain health in asymptomatic individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” said van Praag.

More information: Julian M. Gaitán et al, Effects of Aerobic Exercise Training on Systemic Biomarkers and Cognition in Late Middle-Aged Adults at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease, Frontiers in Endocrinology (2021). DOI: 10.3389/fendo.2021.660181

Provided by Florida Atlantic University


‘Smart drugs’ are real — here’s what’s scientifically proven and how to tell if nootropics are right for you

'Smart drugs' are real — here's what's scientifically proven and how to tell if nootropics are right for you

zhangshuang/Getty Images Green tea contains L-theanine, a natural nootropic that may boost serotonin and dopamine levels. Nootropics are cognitive enhancers that may help boost energy, focus, and memory.

They aren’t a cure-all and most work best if you have some symptoms of decreased mental clarity.

Some natural nootropics are caffeine, ginkgo biloba, creatine, omega-3s, and L-theanine.

Whether you’re a student cramming for finals, an employee on a project deadline, or your mind just isn’t as clear as it once was, you might wish there was a magic pill you could take that would supercharge your brain and make everything a little easier.

Nootropics aren’t magic pills, and they won’t supercharge your brain, but they do have the potential to improve your cognitive functioning under the right circumstances.

Here’s more about nootropics as well as specific types that have been proven to provide some level of cognitive enhancement. What are nootropics?

Nootropics are colloquially called “smart drugs” or “cognitive enhancers” due to the fact that they might theoretically boost brain function — especially regarding energy, focus, and memory.

Natural nootropics may also increase blood circulation and oxygen flow to the brain, according to a 2016 study . This is beneficial for brain health, since the brain depends on a continuous supply of oxygen and nutrients to function properly.

But nootropics likely won’t provide you much benefit if you’re not already experiencing symptoms such as trouble focusing or poor memory, says David A. Merrill, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Pacific Brain Health Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.

There are a number of factors that can affect your cognitive performance such as your sleep , stress levels , diet , and exercise regimen . You should try to improve these factors rather than simply relying on nootropics, as this will be much more beneficial in the long run, Merrill says. Natural nootropics

There are various natural, over-the-counter, nootropics to choose from that are available in supplement form. You can usually find them at your local grocery or online. Here are five common nootropics as well as how they work. 1. Caffeine

Caffeine — in the form of coffee, tea, energy drinks, supplements, and more — is the most commonly used nootropic worldwide.

It works by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain that make you feel tired. That’s why caffeine often makes people feel less tired and more alert and focused .

However, Merrill notes that there are two problems with caffeine. First, if you consume it often, you will become tolerant to it, meaning that you will require more and more caffeine to feel a boost. Secondly, if you overdo your caffeine consumption, it can lead to side effects like anxiety, insomnia, and tremors. 2. Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba is a plant, and you can find its extract in supplement form. Merrill says ginkgo biloba extract works by increasing blood flow to the brain, or cerebral blood flow. In theory, this can be beneficial because it prevents decreased cerebral blood flow, which can result in cognitive decline .

Much of the research surrounding ginkgo biloba is in regards to Alzheimer’s. For example, a 2020 review of 28 studies found that taking 240 milligrams of ginkgo biloba daily had a positive impact on cognitive function — including reaction time and memory — in adults with mild Alzheimer’s.

However, if you’re not already suffering from cognitive decline, Merrill says you may not experience any kind of boost from ginkgo biloba. 3. L-theanine

L-theanine is found naturally in green tea and black tea , but it can also be taken as a supplement. Merrill says it tends to have a calming, relaxing effect while also boosting alertness—which is why it’s categorized as a nootropic.

L-theanine works by boosting serotonin, dopamine, and GABA levels . GABA are neurotransmitters that play a part in mood and stress regulation.

A 2019 study found that participants who took 200 milligrams of L-theanine tablets for four weeks experienced reduced stress and improved executive functioning. 4. Omega-3s

“Omega-3 fatty acids are the building blocks of brain cell membranes, increasing cell membrane fluidity, which is important for the functioning of each brain cell,” says Merrill.

A 2012 analysis showed that adults with a mild form of cognitive impairment who took omega-3 supplements saw an improvement in cognitive function.

But while some research has been promising, other studies found that omega-3s had no effect on cognition for a sample of healthy adults aged 18-35. Therefore, omega-3 supplements may be most beneficial for people who are already experiencing some form of cognitive decline. 5. Creatine

Creatine is an amino acid that may benefit cognitive function due to the way it interacts with brain cells .

“Brain cells require high amounts of energy to function, and creatine can help brain cells continue to produce the energy needed to think,” says Merrill.

A 2018 systematic review found that taking creatine supplements can improve short-term memory in healthy individuals. Prescription nootropics Those who have a condition that severely impairs their cognitive function may benefit from more potent, prescription nootropics. Here are two common prescription nootropics and how they work. Amphetamines (Adderall) Adderall is a prescription drug commonly prescribed to people with ADHD but it may also be prescribed for narcolepsy. Merrill says Adderall is a stimulant that works by increasing your levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals can improve your focus and concentration.Additionally, Adderall has been shown to boost alertness, energy levels, and attention span in people with ADHD or narcolepsy.”There appears to be a ceiling effect with stimulants like Adderall, so they can reduce attention deficits, but they won’t make individuals with already normal levels of attention super-smart,” says Merrill. Modafinil Modafinil is a prescription drug that promotes wakefulness , and it’s prescribed to people who have narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, or shift work sleep disorder .The way modafinil works is mostly to increase dopamine levels . These increased dopamine levels may help concentration, memory, and motivation,, says Merrill. A 2020 study found that modafinil improves cognitive function in […]


Top 7 Ways CBD Can Help Runners Perform Better

Top 7 Ways CBD Can Help Runners Perform Better

Few activities are as healthy and fulfilling as running. Going for a run every day can boost your overall health and make you happier, stress-free, and ready to take on the world.

But just like any other physical activity, running isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. It leaves your muscles sore, making you refrain from running again until you heal. There’s also the risk of injuries, not to mention that you may experience the so-called runner’s gut or runner’s trots.

Sure, these few downsides don’t prevent you from enjoying your favorite hobby, but what if you could avoid them altogether? What if you could always enjoy a good run without worrying about muscle pain, injuries, or gut issues?

With CBD, you can.

Read on to learn about the best ways CBD can improve your running performance. 1. Reducing Inflammation

Have you ever heard about anandamide? It’s a fatty acid neurotransmitter that your brain produces naturally. It plays a vital part in maintaining homeostasis in the body, which is why it’s often referred to as the bliss molecule.

It helps regulate inflammation, reduce anxiety, stimulate appetite, and improve mood by binding to cannabinoid receptors in your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The problem is that your body breaks it down quickly, which is where CBD comes in.

CBD can increase anandamide levels and inhibit the enzyme that breaks it down, thus slowing down its degradation in the body. Doing so can help reduce inflammation and improve your running.

That’s why CBD oil pills have become quite popular among runners and other athletes. 1. Relieving Pain

This benefit of CBD for runners goes hand in hand with the previous one. When there’s inflammation in the body, you feel it as pain. Your muscles are sore and tense, your joints ache, and you need to dial down any physical activity to let your body heal properly.

But when CBD works with your ECS to reduce inflammation, it can also relieve pain. That’s partly because of increasing anandamide and partly because of how it interacts with your ECS.

It stimulates its neurotransmitters, helping them work more efficiently. And they help regulate more than just pain, including your mood, appetite, metabolism, immune response, memory, and more. 2. Speeding Up Muscle Recovery

This is again a direct benefit from reduced inflammation and pain. After an intense run, your muscles need time to recover. If you keep pushing it, you’ll only feel exhausted and unable to perform as well as you’d like.

When you add CBD to your regimen and relieve all the running-induced pain, you can shorten the recovery time. You can reduce muscle fatigue, get back to running right away, and achieve your fitness goals faster. 3. Preventing Injuries

Since CBD can help speed up your muscle recovery, it can also help prevent injuries. By slowing down your muscle tissue’s breakdown, it can keep potential injuries at bay and help you enjoy your hobby entirely stress-free.

But did you know that CBD can enhance fracture healing as well? Now, that’s something to be excited about! If you ever break a bone during running (hopefully, you won’t), CBD might help it heal faster.

The study above showed that CBD might even enhance bone volume and make bones stronger. 1. Preventing Gut Problems During Running

If you’ve ever run a marathon, you may have experienced the runner’s gut, officially known as runner’s diarrhea. It’s when you feel a strong bowel-movement urge mid-run, and it’s not as uncommon as you may think.

Distance running can upset your stomach because all the blood flow goes to your legs. That can leave your stomach with digestion problems, regardless of when you had your last meal.

Luckily, CBD can reduce intestinal inflammation both during and after running, thus keeping your gut health in check. Since it can also reduce anxiety, it can prevent your stomach from acting out at the worst possible time. 2. Boosting Energy

Like all these other benefits, boosting energy with the help of CBD is a natural process.

As already mentioned, CBD interacts with your ECS naturally, providing the wind at its back to help it perform its function. That function includes regulating a host of biological processes, including maintaining a hormonal balance.

Now, running helps your body release endorphins, but it also increases cortisol levels. That’s usually a short-term rise, but it can last for days with intense running and endurance training.

When CBD joins forces with your ECS, it can keep those cortisol levels in check. That means no energy swings that can mess with your performance and overall well-being. You’ll feel fresh, energetic, and able to experience the runner’s high. 1. Promoting Better Sleep

If you don’t get enough shut-eye, your muscles can’t have enough time to repair. Your body can’t replenish the necessary energy fast enough, thus increasing your stress and anxiety.

CBD can help you eliminate those problems naturally, relaxing your body and helping you sleep better.When you wake up feeling fresh after a good night’s sleep, you’ll be able to maximize your performance. Let’s not mention that high-quality sleep is key to your overall health and well-being. Conclusion Are you feeling excited about adding CBD to your regimen? You should be! Give it a try, and you might start enjoying running more than ever before!


Cancer-causing chemical found in 78 sunscreen products

Cancer-causing chemical found in 78 sunscreen products

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

An independent testing lab has detected the chemical benzene, a known human carcinogen, in 78 sunscreen products and is now calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to recall the products.

The lab, Valisure, checks medications and health care products for quality. Recently, the company tested nearly 300 sunscreen products and found that 27% contained benzene, according to a statement from the company . Fourteen of the products (5%) contained benzene at levels higher than 2 parts per million (ppm), which is the FDA’s recommended limit for benzene in medically valuable drugs that can’t be made without it.

“The presence of this known human carcinogen in products widely recommended for the prevention of skin cancer and that are regularly used by adults and children is very troubling,” David Light, founder and CEO of Valisure, said in the statement.

Benzene is a colorless or light yellow liquid that forms naturally but is also produced by human activities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) . For example, automobile emissions and the burning of coal and oil can release benzene into the air; the chemical is also used in the manufacturing of some plastics, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides, according to the CDC.

Exposure to high levels of benzene causes cancer in humans, particularly blood cancer, including leukemia . The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration limits workplace exposure to benzene in the air to 1 ppm on an average day and a maximum of 5 ppm over a 15-minute period, according to the American Cancer Society . The Environmental Protection Agency limits benzene in drinking water to 0.005 ppm, or 5 parts per billion (ppb), which is also the limit for bottled water.

The FDA says that benzene should not be used in the manufacturing of drug products except in special circumstances, mainly if their use is unavoidable and the drug product makes a significant therapeutic advance. In these cases, benzene levels should be limited to 2 ppm “unless otherwise justified,” the FDA says . In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when there was a shortage of hand sanitizer, the FDA temporarily allowed hand sanitizers to contain up to 2 ppm of benzene. But in March 2021, Valisure announced they had detected benzene above this level in nearly two dozen hand sanitizer products, at least one of which was later recalled .

In light of its new findings of benzene in sunscreens, Valisure has petitioned the FDA to recall the 78 products and to conduct its own investigation into the manufacturing of these products. A full list of the sunscreen products with benzene can be found in the petition. Nearly all of the 14 sunscreen products with benzene levels above 2 ppm were sprays; but the chemical also showed up in lotions and sunburn-relief gels.

Although the FDA says benzene should not be used in the manufacturing of drugs, the agency does not define a specific limit for drugs like sunscreen (The FDA regulates sunscreen as an over-the-counter drug.). The 2 ppm limit applies only to the “special circumstances” outlined by the agency. So Valisure is also calling on the FDA to set a limit for benzene levels in sunscreen and other drug products in standard situations, and to set a limit for exposure in a single day.

Since benzene wasn’t detected in most of the sunscreens Valisure tested, the company says that the use of benzene in sunscreens is not “unavoidable,” and any detectable amount of the chemical shouldn’t be allowed.

“It is critical that regulatory agencies address benzene contamination in sunscreens … so that all individuals feel safe using sunscreen products,” Dr. Christopher Bunick, an associate professor of dermatology at Yale University, said in the statement.

In a statement provided to Live Science, the FDA said it is reviewing the petition. “The FDA takes seriously any safety concerns raised about products we regulate, including sunscreen. While the agency evaluates the submitted citizen petition, we will continue to monitor the sunscreen marketplace and manufacturing efforts to help ensure the availability of safe sunscreens for U.S. consumers,” the statement said. The agency added that it generally does not comment on pending petitions.

The findings do not mean that people should stop using sunscreen, which can help prevent skin cancer, Bunick said

“Many sunscreen products tested by Valisure did not have benzene contamination, and those products are presumably safe and should continue to be used, along with appropriate hats and sun-protective clothing, to mitigate skin cancer risk,” Bunick said.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comments from the FDA.

Originally published on Live Science.


‘We made a big mistake’ — COVID vaccine spike protein travels from injection site, can cause organ damage

‘We made a big mistake’ — COVID vaccine spike protein travels from injection site, can cause organ damage

( Natural News ) COVID vaccine researchers had previously assumed mRNA COVID vaccines would behave like traditional vaccines. The vaccine’s spike protein — responsible for infection and its most severe symptoms — would remain mostly in the injection site at the shoulder muscle or local lymph nodes.

(Article by Megan Redshaw republished from )

But new research obtained by a group of scientists contradicts that theory, a Canadian cancer vaccine researcher said last week.

“We made a big mistake. We didn’t realize it until now,” said Byram Bridle, a viral immunologist and associate professor at University of Guelph, Ontario. “We thought the spike protein was a great target antigen, we never knew the spike protein itself was a toxin and was a pathogenic protein. So by vaccinating people we are inadvertently inoculating them with a toxin.”

Bridle, who was awarded a $230,000 grant by the Canadian government last year for research on COVID vaccine development, said he and a group of international scientists filed a request for information from the Japanese regulatory agency to get access to Pfizer’s “ biodistribution study .”

Biodistribution studies are used to determine where an injected compound travels in the body, and which tissues or organs it accumulates in.

“It’s the first time ever scientists have been privy to seeing where these messenger RNA [mRNA] vaccines go after vaccination,” Bridle said in an interview with Alex Pierson where he first disclosed the data. “Is it a safe assumption that it stays in the shoulder muscle? The short answer is: absolutely not. It’s very disconcerting.”

The Sars-CoV-2 has a spike protein on its surface. That spike protein is what allows it to infect our bodies, Bridle explained. “That is why we have been using the spike protein in our vaccines,” Bridle said. “The vaccines we’re using get the cells in our bodies to manufacture that protein. If we can mount an immune response against that protein, in theory we could prevent this virus from infecting the body. That is the theory behind the vaccine.”

“However, when studying the severe COVID-19, […] heart problems , lots of problems with the cardiovascular system, bleeding and clotting , are all associated with COVID-19,” he added. “In doing that research, what has been discovered by the scientific community, the spike protein on its own is almost entirely responsible for the damage to the cardiovascular system, if it gets into circulation.”

When the purified spike protein is injected into the blood of research animals, they experience damage to the cardiovascular system and the protein can cross the blood-brain barrier and cause damage to the brain, Bridle explained .

The biodistribution study obtained by Bridle shows the COVID spike protein gets into the blood where it circulates for several days post-vaccination and then accumulates in organs and tissues including the spleen, bone marrow, the liver, adrenal glands and in “quite high concentrations” in the ovaries.

“We have known for a long time that the spike protein is a pathogenic protein, Bridle said. “It is a toxin. It can cause damage in our body if it gets into circulation.”

A large number of studies have shown the most severe effects of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, such as blood clotting and bleeding, are due to the effects of the spike protein of the virus itself.

A recent study in Clinical and Infectious Diseases led by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard Medical School measured longitudinal plasma samples collected from 13 recipients of the Moderna vaccine 1 and 29 days after the first dose and 1-28 days after the second dose.

Out of these individuals, 11 had detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2 protein in blood plasma as early as one day after the first vaccine dose, including three who had detectable levels of spike protein. A “subunit” protein called S1, part of the spike protein, was also detected.

Spike protein was detected an average of 15 days after the first injection, and one patient had spike protein detectable on day 29 — one day after a second vaccine dose — which disappeared two days later.

The results showed S1 antigen production after the initial vaccination can be detected by day one and is present beyond the injection site and the associated regional lymph nodes.

Assuming an average adult blood volume of approximately 5 liters, this corresponds to peak levels of approximately 0.3 micrograms of circulating free antigen for a vaccine designed only to express membrane-anchored antigen.

In a study published in Nature Neuroscience , lab animals injected with purified spike protein into their bloodstream developed cardiovascular problems. The spike protein also crossed the blood-brain barrier and caused damage to the brain.

It was a grave mistake to believe the spike protein would not escape into the blood circulation, according to Bridle. “Now, we have clear-cut evidence that the vaccines that make the cells in our deltoid muscles manufacture this protein — that the vaccine itself, plus the protein — gets into blood circulation,” he said.

Bridle said the scientific community has discovered the spike protein, on its own, is almost entirely responsible for the damage to the cardiovascular system, if it gets into circulation.

Once in circulation, the spike protein can attach to specific ACE2 receptors that are on blood platelets and the cells that line blood vessels, Bridle said. “When that happens it can do one of two things. It can either cause platelets to clump, and that can lead to clotting — that’s exactly why we’ve been seeing clotting disorders associated with these vaccines. It can also lead to bleeding,” he added.

Both clotting and bleeding are associated with vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT). Bridle also said the spike protein in circulation would explain recently reported heart problems in vaccinated teens.

Stephanie Seneff, senior research scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said it is now clear vaccine content is being delivered to the spleen and the glands, including the ovaries and the adrenal glands, and is being shed into the medium and then eventually reaches the bloodstream causing systemic damage.

“ACE2 receptors are common in the heart and brain,” she added. […]


Intermittent fasting is key to a “healthy lifestyle,” experts suggest

Intermittent fasting is key to a “healthy lifestyle,” experts suggest

( Natural News ) Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It is said to promote weight loss, lower blood pressure and boost brain health, among others. But what does science actually say about intermittent fasting?

In a review published in The New England Journal of Medicine , neuroscientist Mark Mattson of Johns Hopkins Medicine and aging specialist Rafael de Cabo of the National Institute on Aging examined past studies on intermittent fasting to elucidate the science-backed benefits of intermittent fasting . Evidence-based benefits of intermittent fasting

Mattson and de Cabo mentioned an array of animal and human studies that showed intermittent fasting supports cellular health, probably by triggering metabolic switching. This occurs when cells use up their stores of rapidly consumed, sugar-based fuel and begin converting fat into energy through a slower metabolic process. Known as an age-old adaptation to periods of food scarcity, metabolic switching improves blood sugar control, increases resistance to stress and suppresses inflammation.

Meanwhile, other studies found that intermittent fasting helps lower blood pressure, blood lipid levels and resting heart rate. There is also evidence suggesting that intermittent fasting could modify risk factors for obesity and Type 2 diabetes .

In a pair of studies involving 100 overweight women, those on a 5:2 intermittent fasting — which requires consuming one moderate-sized meal for two days a week and eating normally for the rest — lost the same amount of weight as women on a low-calorie diet . At the same time, they experienced improvements in insulin sensitivity and greater reductions in belly fat. (Related: Intermittent fasting found to boost heart health, lower diabetes risk .)

Studies also suggest that eating patterns like intermittent fasting can help boost brain health . A study from the University of Toronto , for example, found that sticking to a calorie-restricted diet for two years helps improve memory.

Mattson and de Cabo acknowledged that more studies are needed to support the benefits of intermittent fasting on learning and memory. If these benefits are established, fasting could serve as a new intervention for delaying cognitive decline and dementia .

Mattson urged people to practice patience and ask guidance from physicians if they are struggling to fast. He noted that it normally takes time for the body to adjust and overcome the initial hunger pangs and irritability that come with fasting.

“Patients should be advised that feeling hungry and irritable is common initially and usually passes after two weeks to a month as the body and brain become accustomed to the new habit,” he said.

For those who wish to try intermittent fasting, Mattson recommends increasing the duration and frequency of your fasting periods gradually over several months to manage the initial side effects of intermittent fasting. How to do intermittent fasting

There are many ways to do intermittent fasting . Here are some of the most popular methods:

> The 16/8 method – This involves fasting every day for 14 to 16 consecutive hours and eating only within the remaining hours of the day.

The 5:2 diet – As mentioned earlier, this requires consuming one moderate-sized meal for two nonconsecutive days each week and eating normally for the rest.

Eat-stop-eat – This involves fasting for an entire day, once or twice a week.

Alternate-day fasting – As its name suggests, this requires fasting every other day.

The warrior diet – This involves fasting all day and eating at night within a four-hour eating window.

Intermittent fasting is extremely beneficial for health. It can boost brain health, improve blood sugar control and promote weight loss, among others. Follow to learn more about the different methods of fasting and their health benefits.

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Blood biomarker detects whether depression is due to neurodegeneration

Blood biomarker detects whether depression is due to neurodegeneration

A test could be used as a rapid screening tool in clinics to determine whether a patient’s cognitive problems are due to neurodegeneration. A new study published in the journal Nature Communications is reporting a single blood-based biomarker can detect the presence of 13 neurodegenerative disorders, from frontotemporal dementia to motor neuron disease. The test cannot specifically distinguish each disorder but instead is proposed as a way to determine whether patients with memory problems are suffering from the early stages of neurodegenerative disease.

Neurofilament light chain (NfL) is a protein released into cerebrospinal fluid when brain cells are damaged. It can be detected in blood, and researchers have long investigated this biomarker as a way of easily diagnosing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s .

This new study investigated over 3,000 blood samples from a diverse cohort of subjects with the goal of finding out whether NfL blood levels could differentiate cognitively healthy subjects from those with neurodegenerative diseases.

The research found NfL levels could effectively detect subjects with one of 13 different neurodegenerative disorders, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), frontotemporal dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Plus, even more significantly, NfL levels could be used to identify whether patients with moderate to severe depression were suffering from the early stages of neurodegeneration.

Abdul Hye, joint senior author on the study, says this particular finding means NfL levels could be used in clinical contexts to help doctors determine if a patient’s cognitive symptoms are an early sign of neurodegeneration or another kind of psychiatric problem.

“For the first time we have shown across a number of disorders that a single biomarker can indicate the presence of underlying neurodegeneration with excellent accuracy,” says Hye. “Though it is not specific for any one disorder, it could help in services such as memory clinics as a rapid screening tool to identify whether memory, thinking or psychiatric problems are a result of neurodegeneration.”

Although the study found NfL blood levels could not diagnose specific neurodegenerative conditions, the researchers note the biomarker does have value in tracking nuances within certain groups of patients. High blood NfL levels in Parkinson’s disease patients, for example, were found to signal atypical cases of the disorder. In subjects with Down syndrome high NfL levels were found to correlate with dementia.

“This suggests that the new marker could potentially be used to improve the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in people with Down syndrome, as well as to be used as a biomarker to show whether treatments are effective or not,” explains study co-author Andre Strydom. “It is exciting that all that could be needed is a simple blood test, which is better tolerated in Down syndrome individuals than brain scans.”

As NfL levels naturally rise with age, the new study also offers age-related cut-offs separating normal from abnormal NfL levels. This will help clinicians determine whether NfL blood levels are a sign of neurodegeneration or simply a natural accumulation that comes with aging.

“Blood-based NfL offers a scalable and widely accessible alternative to invasive and expensive tests for dementia,” adds Hye. “It is already used as a routine assessment in some European countries such as Sweden or Netherlands, and our age-related cut-offs can provide a benchmark and quick accessible test for clinicians, to indicate neurodegeneration in people who are exhibiting problems in thinking and memory.”

The new study was published in the journal Nature Communications .


Here Are 10 Amazing Benefits Of Learning To Play Musical Instruments

Here Are 10 Amazing Benefits Of Learning To Play Musical Instruments

Have a fascination for musical instruments? Learn where that can take you and the benefits it offers. playing music m Lockdown had a very harsh effect on people’s lives, it took a toll on everyone’s emotional and physical well-being. But that’s just the negatives, if we look on the brighter side, many people took this opportunity to rediscover themselves and some potentially had enough time to learn new things and grow their skill set. Learning instruments was one of them. As some of us might not know, incorporating music in our lives can be very beneficial and positive for us. Here are some benefits of learning to play musical instruments, read on for more. 1 Boosts Self-Confidence And Self-Discipline

The complete process of learning to play an instrument can potentially have a very positive impact on the learner’s personality as he progresses through the journey. According to research, playing an instrument can boost self-confidence and significantly increase self-discipline. The learner is required to play in front of an audience or a teacher which boosts self-confidence, and, as a part of the learning process, one has to have a lot of dedication and should be ready to invest great time and effort which can eventually add discipline in one’s day to day activities and behaviour. 2 Can Make You Smarter

According to medical science, musicians tend to have more brain power than non-musicians. This is because while learning, musicians eventually grow more grey areas in their brains, which is the powerhouse of information processing, memory, and intellectual abilities. So, does this inspire you to grab a guitar and start learning asap? Cause we still have a lot more reasons for you to do so. 3 Prevents Hearing Loss In Older Age

As we grow older, our hearing ability starts to deteriorate. That is why older people have more hearing problems than younger people. Well, it seems like that’s not the case for musicians! While learning to play an instrument, a musician develops special hearing skills which can actually keep your ears healthy and active for your entire life. 4 Strengthens The Immune System

Learning a musical instrument can have a direct effect on your immune system as well. According to research, playing an instrument can strengthen your immune response by promoting the production of immunoglobulin-A, which is a type of natural anti-viral killer cell. 5 Increases Time-Management

Learning to play an instrument can also help you regulate your time management skills. As challenging as it sounds like, if you desire to achieve something at any cost, for example learning an instrument and incorporate it as a part of your skill chart, can really help you to understand how not to waste your time and manage it wisely as you’ll tend to schedule your practice hours in-between your busy schedule. 6 Reduces Stress

Playing an instrument or listening to music, in general, can have a positive effect on your mental health. It can significantly reduce stress and pain by suppressing the stress hormone. That’s why learning an instrument is widely assumed to be a natural anti-depressant. 7 Incorporates Patience And Persistence

The learning process involved in mastering an instrument requires a lot of patience and consistent practice. That is why it can help you to be more patient and you gradually learn how to control your mind and be calmer. 8 Cultivates Creativity

Once you master your instrument and develop a more clear sense of learning and creating new things in music to express yourself, you eventually become more creative without even knowing it. Music is art, and the more you learn how to use your paintbrush, imagination, and your skills correctly, your painting or your art will turn out to be more beautiful, and the more you’ll be able to express yourself. 9 Increases Expression And Emotional Stability

Musicians tend to express their emotions more effortlessly and on a deeper level according to research. If you find it difficult to convey your feelings to other people, then, deciding to learn an instrument can really help you get past this problem easily. 10 Improves Memory

Learning an instrument can improve your memory capabilities. It is proven that engaging in musical activities can make one have significantly better memory and brain functioning.


Brain Maps May Reveal the Origins and Paths of Neurological Dysfunction

Brain Maps May Reveal the Origins and Paths of Neurological Dysfunction

Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News Statisticians like to say, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” Mapmakers could say the same thing about their maps. Mapmakers, however, could add that some maps complement each other, or have the potential to do so. Such potential is beginning to be realized for brain maps, which are still—forgive the expression—all over the map. Some brain maps illustrate neuroanatomy in exquisite detail, some capture spatial information about the flicker and glow of signaling events, and some indicate how gene expression or protein expression varies from place to place within the brain.

Unfortunately, brain maps of different types correlate hardly at all. Consider the gaps between whole-brain neuroimaging, which relies on tools such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and neurobiological imaging, which relies on tools such as immunohistochemistry and next-generation sequencing.

Neuroimaging may be undertaken noninvasively, in living organisms, but it suffers from poor resolution. In contrast, neurobiological imaging may achieve molecular and cellular resolution, but it is typically invasive, requiring the use of postmortem tissue.

Bridging the divides between different types of brain maps could help scientists relate large-scale brain functions to the molecular and cellular activities that support these functions. For example, processes such as perception and memory could be analyzed at a deeper level. Also, conditions such as autism, schizophrenia, and neurodegenerative disease could be better correlated with molecular phenomena. Instead of accumulating mere genotype-phenotype associations, scientists could detail pathways and mechanisms.

In this article, we’ll briefly touch on two well-developed types of brain mapping—the creation of molecular brain atlases, and the modeling of brain activities. Finally, we’ll look at nascent efforts to bridge these kinds of brain mapping. Specifically, we’ll report on recent progress in the development of molecular fMRI, an alternative form of fMRI that monitors brain activity through the use of chemical or genetically encoded probes. Deriving insights from brain atlases

Brain mapping is an audacious pursuit, one that has inspired multiple “big science” initiatives. Among the most prominent initiatives is the Human Brain Atlas. This initiative, which was undertaken by the Allen Institute for Brain Science, is consolidating anatomical and gene expression information.

The Allen Institute’s stated mission is to provide publicly available resources that accelerate basic and clinical research of the human brain in normal and disease states. Examples of how the Allen Institute’s work is assisting researchers can be found at the organization’s website, which presents “Data Stories.” One of these stories describes how researchers at the University of Cambridge merged data from the Allen Human Brain Atlas with MRI brain scans and made an important discovery about the teenage brain.

The scientists used MRI to study the brain structure of almost 300 individuals aged 14–24 years old. By comparing the brain structure of teenagers of different ages, the scientists found that during adolescence, the outer regions of the brain, known as the cortex, shrink in size, becoming thinner. However, as this happens, levels of myelin—the sheath that “insulates” nerve fibers, allowing them to communicate efficiently—increase within the cortex.

These findings appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , in an article titled, “Adolescence is associated with genomically patterned consolidation of the hubs of the human brain connectome.” The article also indicated that the “topologically focused process of cortical consolidation was associated with expression of genes enriched for normal synaptic and myelin-related processes and risk of schizophrenia.”

Essentially, the researchers found that during adolescence, brain regions that have the strongest link to the schizophrenia risk genes are developing most rapidly. “As these regions are important hubs that control how regions of our brain communicate with each other, it shouldn’t be too surprising that when something goes wrong there, it will affect how smoothly our brains work,” Edward T. Bullmore, PhD, the study’s senior author and head of psychiatry at Cambridge, noted in a statement. “If one imagines these major hubs of the brain network to be like international airports in the airline network, then we can see that disrupting the development of brain hubs could have as big an impact on communication of information across the brain network as disruption of a major airport, like Heathrow, will have on flow of passenger traffic across the airline network.” Using machine learning to map brain activity

A recent contribution to GEN by Richard A. Stein, MD, PhD, discussed how artificial intelligence technology is helping researchers derive more information from fMRI scans. According to Stein, the technology is helping researchers clarify the brain’s notoriously obscure structure-function relationships. He even describes how an improved understanding of these relationships could help clinicians detect early signs of neurodegeneration in individual patients.

Stein’s contribution appears in full on the GEN website. A representative excerpt is presented in a sidebar (“Mapping How the Brain Organizes Semantic Activity”) that accompanies this article. The excerpt describes how researchers at the University of California are using machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence, to visualize human brain activity.

According to Stein, such work demonstrates how clinicians may use functional imaging to guide early diagnostic, therapeutic, or prognostic decisions. For example, functional imaging could help clinicians improve the management of conditions such as autism spectrum disorder or neurodegenerative diseases.

“Functional imaging,” Stein notes, “would be especially valuable if it could help clinicians distinguish between conditions that would otherwise appear to be the same condition.” He adds that making such distinctions is often difficult in neuroscience, given that “behavior is a low-dimensional reflection of the high-dimensional brain
processes that produce it.” Extending neuroimaging with molecular probes

To generate functional images of the brain, scientists generally rely on fMRI, a noninvasive technique that tracks the magnetic signals that accompany changes in the oxygenation of hemoglobin. Essentially, hemoglobin is a natural (and convenient) contrast agent or probe of a chemical interaction that correlates with neural activity. What if other probes could be deployed, probes that would allow noninvasive neuroimaging to approach the specificity and resolution of optical neuroimaging?

This question drives researchers in the laboratory of Alan P. Jasanoff, PhD, a professor of biological […]


Do medicinal mushrooms really work? What you need to know about lion’s mane, reishi and more

Do medicinal mushrooms really work? What you need to know about lion's mane, reishi and more

Medicinal mushrooms are popular — but do they really work? Mushrooms have officially taken over the wellness space, and that extends well beyond the ones you find on your plate. Mushrooms are found in everything from coffee to smoothies to your medicine cabinet, and it’s looking like it’s just the start of the mushroom boom.

But not all mushrooms are created equal. Many of them have special (science-backed) properties that are seriously impressive. One of the most beneficial types of mushrooms are called functional mushrooms, which are pretty different from the button mushrooms you might add to a pasta dish (although those are good for you too). Editors’ top picks

“Functional mushrooms are mushrooms that have benefits that extend past nutritional benefits found in traditional mushrooms we are familiar with from cooking,” says Alana Kessler , a registered dietician. “Functional mushrooms can be taken via capsules, powders, liquids (teas) and sprays,” says Kessler.

With so many different types of mushrooms out there, how do you know which ones are best for you? And which ones are worth buying in a tincture or supplement versus just cooking and eating them? Keep reading for a complete overview of all of the healthiest mushrooms you can use — from the kind you can eat to those that have health benefits if you take them in a more concentrated supplemental form. Mushroom basics

You’ll find medicinal mushrooms in many forms, but one of the most common ways to supplement is with a mushroom powder or extract (more on that later). While many mushrooms are taken in supplements, powders or other forms, some medicinal mushrooms are also eaten in their whole form. “Mushrooms in general offer up great nutrition and are low in calories. They provide selenium, B vitamins, vitamin D and potassium — necessary for energy and absorption of nutrients, as well as beta glucans which are important for lowering inflammation and providing fiber, especially shiitake and maitake,” says Kessler. An overview of edible medicinal mushrooms

Maitake: “Can be sautéed, cooked into dishes, or eaten cooked on its own (not typically raw),” says Kessler. Maitake mushroom is an adaptogen , which means it can help the body adapt to stress and stay in balance. It also has potential anti-cancer benefits , in addition to helping improve cholesterol and type 2 diabetes .

Shiitake: “[Can be] cooked into any types of dishes, can be eaten raw, but typically cooked,” says Kessler. Shiitake mushrooms may help fight cancer and inflammation , and they contain beta glucans, which may help lower cholesterol .

Lion’s mane: ” Not typically eaten raw, and can be substituted in recipes as crab meat. [Helps] support mood health and memory,” says Kessler.

Oyster mushrooms : “Not typically eaten raw, can sauté, or use in stir fry,” says Kessler. Research has shown that oyster mushrooms contain antioxidants and may help decrease risk of certain diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Lion’s mane is known for helping improve focus and brain health. Functional medicinal mushrooms

While not an exhaustive list, the below types of mushrooms are some of the most common kinds that are sold and marketed today in supplements, extracts, powders and other products. Lion’s mane

Lion’s mane mushroom is best known for potential benefits for brain health . Some supplements and products that market lion’s mane claim that it can help boost focus and memory. Although there is not much human clinical research on lion’s mane, some animal studies have shown that it can help boost memory and may help prevent diseases that affect cognitive function like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Lion’s mane is high in antioxidants , which can help lower inflammation in the body. Reishi

Traditionally used in East Asian medicine , reishi is a type of mushroom that’s been used for many reasons and has a long list of potential health benefits. It’s currently being used to help cancer patients in China who need help strengthening their immune system after cancer treatments.

According to Kessler, reishi contains several polysaccharides that stimulate parts of the immune system. “[Reishi] helps the body fight viruses and bacteria by stimulating production of T-cells,” says Kessler. Reishi may also have benefits for fighting cancer as “the polysaccharides cause a significant increase in ‘natural killer’ cells, which destroys cancer cells, shrinks tumors and slows the spread of existing cancers,” says Kessler.

Reishi may also help reduce stress, decrease depression symptoms and help improve sleep, thanks to naturally occurring compounds called triterpenes . Chaga

“[Chaga] fungus grows in colder climates and is high in fiber. It is possible this is a reason that while it is beneficial for immune function and provides antioxidants, it is also used as a complementary treatment to heart disease and diabetes as it helps to lower blood sugar,” says Kessler. In addition to antioxidants and fiber, chaga also contains a variety of other nutrients like B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, iron and calcium, among others. Turkey tail

Turkey tail is best known for its potential benefits for immune health and it’s been studied for treating cancer alongside other treatments.

“[Turkey tail] stimulates processes in the body which fights tumor growth and metastasis, including production of T-cells and ‘natural killer’ cells,” says Kessler. ” Studies have shown that polysaccharide-K (PSK, a compound in turkey tail) improved the survival rates of patients with gastric and colorectal cancers and showed promise in fighting leukemia and some lung cancers,” says Kessler. Cordyceps

Perhaps the most popular mushroom in the fitness crowd, Cordyceps is embraced by fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike for its ability to boost recovery and stamina . “Cordyceps boosts metabolism and stamina, and speeds recovery by increasing ATP, and improves how the body uses oxygen,” says Kessler. What to look for when buying mushroom products

Some mushroom supplements and products contain fillers and other ingredients you need to avoid in order to find the best quality product. “When purchasing a mushroom supplement, make sure starch is listed. Some supplements […]