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Mindfulness May Improve Brain Health And Cognition In Older Adults

Although mindfulness is typically geared towards improving mental health and well-being, it may also provide additional benefits to brain health.

Mindfulness may provide modest benefits to cognition, particularly among older adults, finds a new review of evidence led by UCL researchers.

The systematic review and meta-analysis, published in Neuropsychology Review, found that, while mindfulness is typically geared towards improving mental health and well-being, it may also provide additional benefits to brain health.

The study’s lead author, PhD student Tim Whitfield (UCL Psychiatry) said that “the positive effects of mindfulness-based programs on mental health are already relatively well-established. Here, our findings suggest that a small benefit is also conferred to cognition, at least among older adults.”

The researchers reviewed previously published studies of mindfulness, and identified 45 studies that fit their criteria, which incorporated a total of 2,238 study participants. Each study tested the effects of a mindfulness-based intervention delivered by a facilitator in a group setting, over at least four sessions, while excluding mindfulness retreats in order to have a more homogenous set of studies.

The majority of studies involved a certified instructor teaching participants techniques such as sitting meditation, mindful movement and body scan, generally on a weekly basis across six to 12 weeks, while also asking participants to continue the practices in their own time.

The researchers found that overall, mindfulness conferred a small but significant benefit to cognition.

Subgroup analysis revealed that the effect was slightly stronger for people over 60, while there was not a significant effect for people under 60.

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Tim Whitfield commented that “executive function is known to decline with age among older adults; the improvement in people over 60 suggests that mindfulness may help guard against cognitive decline, by helping to maintain or restore executive function in late adulthood. It might be easier to restore cognitive functions to previous levels, rather than to improve them beyond the developmental peak.”

When they investigated which aspects of cognition were affected, the researchers found that mindfulness was beneficial only to executive function, and more specifically, there was strong evidence of a small positive effect on working memory (which is one facet of executive function).

The researchers also analyzed whether mindfulness outperformed other ‘active interventions’ (such as brain training, relaxation, or other health or educational programs) or only when compared to people who were not offered any alternative treatment. They found that cognitive benefits of mindfulness were only significant compared with an ‘inactive’ comparison, which means they cannot rule out that the benefits may have been at least partly derived from an expectation of treatment benefits, or social interactions.

The researchers say that more research is needed into which characteristics of mindfulness training may be more likely to confer cognitive benefits, or whether delivering interventions over longer periods, or in intensive retreat settings, might yield greater cognitive benefits.

Senior author Dr Natalie Marchant (UCL Psychiatry) said that they “know mindfulness-based programs benefit mental health, and our paper now suggests that mindfulness may also help to maintain cognitive faculties as people age. Mindfulness practices do not share much in common with cognitive test measures, so it is notable that mindfulness training’s impact appears to transfer to other domains. While our review only identified a small benefit to executive function, it remains possible that some types of mindfulness training might deliver larger gains.”

The study was published in the journal Neuropsychology Review (Whitfield et al., 2021).

August 25, 2021

Story source: UCL  PsyBlog


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Certain Foods Can Damage Your Ability To Think Flexibly

A high-fat, high-sugar diet causes significant damage to cognitive flexibility, a new study finds.

Cognitive flexibility is the ability to adjust and adapt to changing situations.

The high-sugar diet was most damaging, the research on mice found.

This caused impairments in both long- and short-term memory.

This is just the latest in a line of studies showing the potentially dramatic effects of diet on mental performance.

Professor Kathy Magnusson, who co-led the study, said:

“The impairment of cognitive flexibility in this study was pretty strong.

Think about driving home on a route that’s very familiar to you, something you’re used to doing.

Then one day that road is closed and you suddenly have to find a new way home.”

With lower cognitive flexibility, adapting to these kinds of changes would be more difficult.

Professor Magnusson said it wasn’t yet clear how these damaging effects were caused:

“It’s increasingly clear that our gut bacteria, or microbiota, can communicate with the human brain.

Bacteria can release compounds that act as neurotransmitters, stimulate sensory nerves or the immune system, and affect a wide range of biological functions.\

We’re not sure just what messages are being sent, but we are tracking down the pathways and the effects.”

The research was carried out on laboratory mice.

They were given either a normal diet, a high-fat diet or a high-sugar diet.

After four weeks the mental and physical performance of mice on the high-fat or high-sugar diet began to suffer.

Professor Magnusson said:

“We’ve known for a while that too much fat and sugar are not good for you.

This work suggests that fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and that’s one of the reasons those foods aren’t good for you.

It’s not just the food that could be influencing your brain, but an interaction between the food and microbial changes.”

The ‘Western diet’ that many consume daily is high in sugar, fat and simple carbohydrates.

The study was published in the journal Neuroscience (Magnusson et al., 2015).

source: PsyBlog


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Just two daily servings containing vital nutrients is enough to reduce brain age by 11 years.

Eating green leafy vegetables could reduce brain age by around eleven years, a new study finds.

Vitamin K in foods like mustard greens, spinach, kale and collards have been linked to slower cognitive decline for the first time.

Professor Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist who led the research, said:

“Losing one’s memory or cognitive abilities is one of the biggest fears for people as they get older.

Since declining cognitive ability is central to Alzheimer’s disease and dementias, increasing consumption of green leafy vegetables could offer a very simple, affordable and non-invasive way of potentially protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”

The study followed 954 older adults with an average age of 81 over around five years.

They found that people who ate just two servings per day of leafy vegetables had better cognitive powers than those who ate none.

The difference was equivalent to having a brain fully 11 years younger.

The nutrients most likely responsible for the boost, the researchers found, were vitamin K, folate, beta-carotene and lutein.

brain
Two Servings of Specific Vegetables
Can Reduce Brain Age By 11 Years

Professor Morris said:

“Our study identified some very novel associations.

No other studies have looked at vitamin K in relation to change in cognitive abilities over time, and only a limited number of studies have found some association with lutein.”

Reduce brain age

Other good sources of vitamin K, folate, beta-carotene and lutein which may reduce brain age include brightly coloured fruits and vegetables.

Professor Morris concluded:

“With baby boomers approaching old age, there is huge public demand for lifestyle behaviors that can ward off loss of memory and other cognitive abilities with age.

Our study provides evidence that eating green leafy vegetables and other foods rich in vitamin K, lutein and beta-carotene can help to keep the brain healthy to preserve functioning.”

The research was presented at the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology 2015 in Boston.

source: PsyBlog


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5 Reasons Why Music Is the Real Fountain of Youth

Society is obsessed with youth — so much so that one of the largest technology companies in the world, Google, recently acquired a new company, called Calico, devoted to tackling the issues of aging.

But can science really turn back the clock’s hands, or is humanity still searching for Herodotus’ magical “waters of life”?

One key to re-connecting with our youth may be closer than it seems. A series of recent studies lend credence to the idea that music could be the next best thing to finding the real “Fountain of Youth.”

Here are 5 incredible ways music helps us stay young and healthy:

Improves immunity: Listening to upbeat music for less than an hour is enough to decrease immunity-suppressing stress hormones and increase the number of antibodies in the blood, according to a study conducted by Sussex University and the Max Planck Institute. Researchers only tested the effects of lively music, and theorize that personal preferences and exposure to other genres might impact an individual’s response; “We’d expect that different kinds of music might show different physiological and immunological effects,” says Ronny Enk, study author and neurocognition expert at Max Planck. “Not only the music itself is important but probably the personal appraisal of the listener will also be important.”

Combats cognitive decline: McGill University researchers found that the human brain releases dopamine—a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of reward and pleasure, and facilitates the creation of long-term memories—both during, and in anticipation of, jamming out to good tunes. Natural decreases in the number of dopamine-producing cells is thought to contribute to age-related decline in memory and cognition. But studies have shown that artificially increasing the supply of dopamine in an elderly individual’s brain can help them form stronger memories.

Keeps depression at bay: People with major depressive order age faster than their non-depressed counterparts. But a review of 17 different studies on music and depression led analysts from the National University of Singapore to conclude that jamming out just once a week may reduce symptoms of depression.

Beefs up the brain‘s circuits: Individuals exposed to even a minor amount of musical training in their youth may derive benefit years later, according to Northwestern University researchers who found that even individuals who hadn’t touched an instrument in decades were able to process sounds faster than those who’d never played a tune. Hearing troubles are one of the most prevalent problems of aging, but study authors believe that music training could be the key to helping older adults hold onto their hearing for longer.

Enlivens those with Alzheimer‘s: Alzheimer’s is one of the most feared diseases of aging. Individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia face the gradual erosion of their mental abilities. But recent research from George Mason University indicates that singing along—not just listening—to hits from classical movies, such as The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music and Oklahoma, may increase cognitive functioning in Alzheimer’s patients. The positive effects were especially profound in those in the moderate to severe stages of the disease. The power of music to help people with Alzheimer’s has long been acknowledged. Check out the video above that shows how a simple song can make all the difference in the world to someone with Alzheimer’s.

Music won’t reverse all the ravages of aging, nor can it stave off deadly disease, but it can dampen the effects of the encroaching years, and has an innate power to uplift and inspire that should not be ignored.

AgingCare.com    December 3, 2013

source: care2.com