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Magic Mushrooms can ‘Reset’ Depressed Brain

A hallucinogen found in magic mushrooms can “reset” the brains of people with untreatable depression, raising hopes of a future treatment, scans suggest.

The small study gave 19 patients a single dose of the psychedelic ingredient psilocybin.
Half of patients ceased to be depressed and experienced changes in their brain activity that lasted about five weeks.

However, the team at Imperial College London says people should not self-medicate.

There has been a series of small studies suggesting psilocybin could have a role in depression by acting as a “lubricant for the mind” that allows people to escape a cycle of depressive symptoms.
But the precise impact it might be having on brain activity was not known.

The team at Imperial performed fMRI brain scans before treatment with psilocybin and then the day after (when the patients were “sober” again).

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed psilocybin affected two key areas of the brain.

  • The amygdala – which is heavily involved in how we process emotions such as fear and anxiety – became less active. The greater the reduction, the greater the improvement in reported symptoms.
  • The default-mode network – a collaboration of different brain regions – became more stable after taking psilocybin.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, head of psychedelic research at Imperial, said the depressed brain was being “clammed up” and the psychedelic experience “reset” it.

He told the BBC News website: “Patients were very ready to use this analogy. Without any priming they would say, ‘I’ve been reset, reborn, rebooted’, and one patient said his brain had been defragged and cleaned up.”

However, this remains a small study and had no “control” group of healthy people with whom to compare the brain scans.

Further, larger studies are still needed before psilocybin could be accepted as a treatment for depression.

However, there is no doubt new approaches to treatment are desperately needed.

Prof Mitul Mehta, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: “What is impressive about these preliminary findings is that brain changes occurred in the networks we know are involved in depression, after just a single dose of psilocybin.

“This provides a clear rationale to now look at the longer-term mechanisms in controlled studies.”

By James Gallagher    Health and science reporter, BBC News website    14 October 2017
 
source: www.bbc.com
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The Science Behind Why Breaking A Bad Habit Is So Hard

Engaging the goal-directed side of your brain can help you override the part that controls your bad habits.

Habits are your brain’s version of autopilot. They allow you to get ready for work, navigate your way to the office, and find your way home without having to reinvent the wheel every day. They save time and energy . . . except when they involve grabbing a candy bar from the vending machine every afternoon at 3 p.m. In cases like this, bad habits can feel like a battle of wills.

To find out why some habits can be hard to make or break, researchers from the University of California performed experiments with mice and found that the brain’s circuits for habit- and goal-directed action compete for control in the area of the brain that makes decisions.

“Neurochemicals called endocannabinoids allow for habit to take over by acting as a sort of brake on the goal-directed circuit,” writes Christina Gremel, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California San Diego who headed up the study that was published in the research journal Neuron.

Endocannabinoids are chemicals that are naturally produced by humans and animals, and receptors are found throughout the body and brain. This system is involved in a variety of physiological processes, such as appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory.

Earlier studies found that the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is the part of the brain that relays goal-directed information. When researchers increased the output of neurons in the OFC in mice using optogenetics–a technique that involves flashes of light–goal-directed actions also increased. And when they decreased activity in the OFC using chemicals, the mice acted on habit.

A good balance of habitual and goal-directed actions helps with everyday functioning and task management. “We need to be able to make routine actions quickly and efficiently, and habits serve this purpose,” writes Gremel. “However, we also encounter changing circumstances, and need the capacity to ‘break habits’ and perform a goal-directed action based on updated information.”

The brain shifts from habit to goal-directed behavior when we need to drive to a different location, for example. The decision to make or break a habit also relies on goal-directed behavior in the beginning. Healthy mice had no problem shifting from one type to the other, but people with conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction may have a physical problem that inhibits goal-directed action, the study suggests. “It does appear some things we think of as more maladaptive like addiction seem to have a bias toward habit system,” Gremel says. “The goal-directed system is still there, and you can still rescue it. Treatment could be pharmaceutical or might involve behavioral therapy. Further research is needed.”

So what does this mean for that afternoon trip to the vending machine? It’s time to engage the goal-directed side of your brain. If you walk by the vending machine every day on your way back from a meeting, for example, alter your path.

“If you change the context or go about things in a different behavioral pattern, it can help you break out of habit,” says Gremel.

BY STEPHANIE VOZZA        06.20.16


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Boost Bacteria to Bolster Your Brain

How can boosting bacteria in your body improve your brain health? Called the “second brain” by leading scientists, a healthy balance of flora in the gut helps to determine whether you’ll have a great memory and a strong resistance to brain disease.

And what happens in the gut plays a significant role in your brain health.  Restoring beneficial bacteria and some healthy yeasts in your intestines (yes, some yeasts are beneficial, just not the ones that cause yeast infections) can go a long way toward protecting your mental faculties and preventing brain diseases altogether.

Frequently when I tell people about this connection between intestinal and brain health—what is known as the gut-brain axis, they tell me that they are covered because they eat yogurt on a regular basis.  While yogurt may (or may not) help boost intestinal flora depending on whether it contains any live cultures at all, we need to give our guts a lot more than yogurt to help us establish a strong and healthy brain for life.

Let’s explore some of the exciting research into the link between beneficial microbes in our gut and our overall brain health.

Some probiotics actually function as antioxidants within the body, which can not only reduce the effects of free radical damage and aging, it is especially good news in the prevention and treatment of brain diseases.

That’s because the brain is vulnerable to free radical damage. Additionally, research at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) found that consuming certain strains of probiotics could actually produce many brain health benefits, including improved sensory and emotional processing.

Since the brain plays a significant role in whether we suffer from mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, probiotics may also be helpful in addressing these serious health concerns. In animal studies conducted by the Department of Medicine at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and published in the medical journal Gastroenterology, the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum eliminated anxiety and normalized behavior.  It appeared to work by reducing the excitability of the nerves in the gut that connect through the vagus nerve to the central nervous system, and in doing so, eliminated anxiety.

Hungarian researchers found that intestinal inflammation is one of the key factors involved in depression and that treating the inflammation with probiotics (along with B complex vitamins, vitamin D, and omega 3 fatty acids) reduced depressive symptoms.

Additional French research demonstrates the power of boosting specific strains of probiotics to boost mood and psychological health.  They found that healthy study participants experienced reduced psychological stress, depression, anxiety, and anger and hostility, as well as improved problem-solving skills when taking the Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum for 30 days.

While you can still enjoy yogurt if you are already doing so, please keep in mind that the above strains are not typically found in yogurt.  I’m not aware of any yogurt that contains the best brain-boosting strains.

Take a probiotic supplement containing proven strains of brain-boosting probiotics such as  Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium longum, and Lactobacillus helveticus on a daily basis.  Store your probiotics in the refrigerator, and take them on an empty stomach. First thing in the morning with a large glass of water tends to work well for most people.

Additionally, kimchi—the national dish of Korea which is typically a fermented mixture of cabbage, chilis, and garlic—frequently contains a much more diverse group of beneficial microbes than yogurt, making it an excellent choice as a brain boosting food. Some types contain fish sauce so if you’re vegan be sure to choose a fish sauce-free option. It is delicious on sandwiches, over brown rice, or as a side-dish to many foods.  Be sure to choose kimchi that hasn’t been pasteurized to ensure the cultures are still intact.

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook           October 5, 2017
source: www.care2.com


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How To Beat Alzheimer’s: Neurologists Devise A Plan To Protect Yourself And Even Reverse Early Symptoms

How To Beat Alzheimer’s: Neurologists Devise A Plan To
Protect Yourself And Even Reverse Early Symptoms

As a high-powered lawyer at the top of her game, Evelyne had always been efficient, authoritative and in control.

But when she reached 60, she reluctantly began to accept that her mind wasn’t as sharp as it once had been.

She found herself increasingly confounded by a nagging sense of confusion and exhaustion — and started second-guessing some of her decisions.

But when Evelyne found herself going completely blank in the middle of an important presentation, she knew something was very wrong.

Evelyne is typical of the thousands of patients we have seen over the course of the 20 years we have spent studying Alzheimer’s disease.

As a neurologist husband-and-wife team, together we run the prestigious Memory and Ageing Centre at Loma Linda University in California — a hospital that is dedicated to cutting-edge research into the condition.

As doctors at the very peak of our profession, we have worked at some of the world’s leading hospitals and have dedicated our careers to finding a cure for this devastating disease.

While other chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and strokes are in decline, cases of Alzheimer’s disease are rising.

It’s now the leading cause of death in the UK — overtaking heart disease in 2016. Indeed, for many of us the question is no longer if we will get the disease, but when.

Today, women over 60 in the UK are twice as likely to get dementia as breast cancer, and the risk of developing it doubles every five years after the age of 65.

By 2025, there will be more than one million people in the UK with dementia.

But now, thanks to years of exhaustive research, we firmly believe we have found a scientifically backed way to reduce your risk and keeping your brain sharper for longer.

Our method could even help to reduce some of the symptoms of dementia after it has started to develop.

The key is a personalised lifestyle plan, which we’ve called the Alzheimer’s Solution — the name of our books.

It identifies your individual risk of getting the disease and then helps you to minimise these risks through simple tweaks to your lifestyle.

Our plan focuses on five key areas that can really make a difference: diet, exercise, sleep, stress and brain training (exercises shown to help boost the brain, such as Sudoku or learning a language).

Throughout our careers we’ve treated thousands of patients and helped them to reverse some of the symptoms of dementia and added years to their lives.

Take Evelyne. Just two months after her first visit to us, tests showed that her short-term memory had improved by 30 per cent and her attention score by 50 per cent.

In a very short space of time, she was seeing a reversal of some of her symptoms.

So how does our plan actually work?

When we started on this quest for an Alzheimer’s cure, we assumed any solution would come in the form of a pill.

But after conducting one of the most comprehensive reviews ever into scientific studies that show the causes of dementia, we are convinced that many cases can be put down to a poor diet consisting of heavily processed food — with an emphasis on sugar and meat — combined with a sedentary, sleep-deprived and stressful lifestyle.

What’s more, the data we looked at (which comprised thousands of studies) convinced us that lifestyle changes that are beneficial to the heart and kidneys also appear to be beneficial to the brain.

That’s why our Alzheimer’s Solution works. It draws on 15 years’ worth of published research from around the globe.

We’ve guided thousands of people through the highly personalised process of lifestyle change throughout our careers — and the overall effects have been profound.

Jerry, for example, came to us with an early diagnosis of vascular dementia, desperate for a solution. We looked in detail at his lifestyle — and then prescribed exercise.

He started pedalling very gently on a stationary bike in front of his TV each day and saw immediate improvements in his mood and memory.

This spurred him on to make further lifestyle adjustments. He decided to take steps to improve his sleep, diet and stress levels — and within a year, a scan of his brain showed rather profound improvements.

‘I was stuck in a parallel universe,’ he told us. ‘But now I’m back with everyone else.’

He is proof that our plan works. And to say these findings changed the course of our lives as doctors would be a complete understatement.

Our discoveries have wholly altered the way that we think about dementia, cognitive health and the future of Alzheimer’s treatment.

There may still be no cure for Alzheimer’s but, with the right advice, we can be mentally active for longer, reverse the debilitating symptoms of the disease and ultimately add more happy, healthy years to our lives.

The best part is that our plan is so simple you can make immediate changes in the sure knowledge that you are launching your own personal fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

1. We found that eating meat is bad for your brain, which requires vegetables, fruit, pulses, grains and healthy fats to thrive.

We therefore recommend a plant-based diet low in sugar, salt and processed foods.

2. Physical exercise increases both the number of brain cells and the connections between them. We suggest maintaining an active lifestyle that incorporates movement every hour — not just a quick stop at the gym after an otherwise sedentary day at the office, for example.

3. Chronic stress puts the brain in a state of high inflammation, causing structural damage and impairing its ability to clear toxins. We recommend meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and time outside.

4. Restorative sleep is essential for health so it’s important to aim for seven to eight hours a night.

5. Puzzles and other complex activities protect your brain against decline.

Social support and engagement with your community can also have a clear and undeniable influence on the way in which your brain ages.

And activities such as playing music are great for challenging and engaging many of the brain’s capacities.

Adapted by Louise Atkinson from
The Alzheimer’s Solution: A Revolutionary Guide To How You Can Prevent And Reverse Memory Loss
by Dr Dean Sherzai and Dr Ayesha Sherzai, published by Simon & Schuster 
By Dr Dean Sherzai And Dr Ayesha Sherzai For The Daily Mail      30 September 2017


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Dancing Can Reverse The Signs Of Aging In The Brain

As we grow older we suffer a decline in mental and physical fitness, which can be made worse by conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing has the most profound effect.

“Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity,” says Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany. “In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that lead to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance.”

Elderly volunteers, with an average age of 68, were recruited to the study and assigned either an eighteen-month weekly course of learning dance routines, or endurance and flexibility training. Both groups showed an increase in the hippocampus region of the brain. This is important because this area can be prone to age-related decline and is affected by diseases like Alzheimer’s. It also plays a key role in memory and learning, as well as keeping one’s balance.

While previous research has shown that physical exercise can combat age-related brain decline, it is not known if one type of exercise can be better than another. To assess this, the exercise routines given to the volunteers differed. The traditional fitness training program conducted mainly repetitive exercises, such as cycling or Nordic walking, but the dance group were challenged with something new each week.

Dr Rehfeld explains, “We tried to provide our seniors in the dance group with constantly changing dance routines of different genres (Jazz, Square, Latin-American and Line Dance). Steps, arm-patterns, formations, speed and rhythms were changed every second week to keep them in a constant learning process. The most challenging aspect for them was to recall the routines under the pressure of time and without any cues from the instructor.”

These extra challenges are thought to account for the noticeable difference in balance displayed by those participants in dancing group. Dr Rehfeld and her colleagues are building on this research to trial new fitness programs that have the potential of maximizing anti-aging effects on the brain.

“Right now, we are evaluating a new system called “Jymmin” (jamming and gymnastic). This is a sensor-based system which generates sounds (melodies, rhythm) based on physical activity. We know that dementia patients react strongly when listening to music. We want to combine the promising aspects of physical activity and active music making in a feasibility study with dementia patients.”

Dr Rehfeld concludes with advice that could get us up out of our seats and dancing to our favorite beat.

“I believe that everybody would like to live an independent and healthy life, for as long as possible. Physical activity is one of the lifestyle factors that can contribute to this, counteracting several risk factors and slowing down age-related decline. I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age.”

This study falls into a broader collection of research investigating the cognitive and neural effects of physical and cognitive activity across the lifespan.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Frontiers. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

Kathrin Rehfeld, Patrick Müller, Norman Aye, Marlen Schmicker, Milos Dordevic, Jörn Kaufmann, Anita Hökelmann, Notger G. Müller. Dancing or Fitness Sport? The Effects of Two Training Programs on Hippocampal Plasticity and Balance Abilities in Healthy Seniors. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2017; 11 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00305

Source:     Frontiers     www.sciencedaily.com


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Health Tip Tuesday

Neurobics for your mind. Get your brain fizzing with energy. American researchers coined the term ‘neurobics’ for tasks which activate the brain’s own biochemical pathways and to bring new pathways online that can help to strengthen or preserve brain circuits.

Brush your teeth with your ‘other’ hand, take a new route to work or choose your clothes based on sense of touch rather than sight. People with mental agility tend to have lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related mental decline.


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Lack Of Rem Sleep Tied To Increased Risk Of Dementia

(Reuters Health) – People who spend less time in deep, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep may be more likely to develop dementia than individuals who get better quality rest, a recent study suggests.

Patients with dementia often have difficulty sleeping, but previous research has offered a mixed picture of which comes first – the cognitive decline or the sleep deficit.

For the current study, researchers examined data from overnight sleep studies for 321 adults age 60 or older who didn’t have dementia. After an average follow-up of 12 years, 32 people developed dementia.

Each percentage reduction in the time people spent in REM sleep was associated with a 9 percent increase in the risk of dementia, researchers report in Neurology.

“We observe an association between sleep and dementia but cannot determine whether reduced REM causes dementia,” said lead study author Matthew Pase of Swinburne University in Australia.

“It is unclear whether increasing REM sleep reduces dementia risk,” Pase, who did the research as part of the Framingham Heart Study at Boston University, said by email. “However, good quality sleep is clearly important for overall health and well-being and the emerging picture suggests that sleep and dementia may influence each other.”

Overall, study participants spent about 20 percent of their sleeping time in REM sleep, the sleep analysis found. But the subset of people who went on to develop dementia spent only 17 percent of their sleep time in REM sleep.

Out of all the dementia cases found in the current study, 25 percent occurred within the first 6.6 years of follow-up. The total included 24 instances of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

Reduced REM was associated with similar increases in the risk of both Alzheimer’s and other dementia cases.

Researchers also looked at what’s known as sleep latency, or how long it takes to fall asleep, and didn’t find this related to the risk of developing dementia.

The study is small, and the results would need to be confirmed by more research in larger groups of people, said Dr. Eric Larson, vice president for research at Kaiser Permanente Washington and a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle.

But that doesn’t mean people should ignore the importance of REM sleep.

“REM sleep is considered the part of the sleep cycle where our brains get rejuvenated,” Larson, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “It’s considered the best part of sleep from a perspective of gaining the rest that restores well-being.”

Other research has linked both insomnia and a nighttime breathing disorder known as sleep apnea with an increased risk of dementia, noted Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a psychiatry and neurology researcher at the University of California, San Francisco who wasn’t involved in the study.

“This adds to the growing science that sleep health or quality is related to brain health,” Yaffe said by email. “It is important to tell your doctor about concerns about your sleep and follow good sleep hygiene practices.”

Lisa Rapaport      SOURCE: bit.ly/2xMYjve      Neurology, online     August 23, 2017     reuters.com