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The Best Mindset To Preserve Memory And Judgement

The best mindset to ward off cognitive decline can be cultivated using exercises such as visualising your best possible self.

Older adults with a more optimistic outlook experience fewer memory and judgement problems, new research finds.

Optimism has also been linked to desirable health behaviours like:

  • Eating more healthily.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Lower risk of heart conditions and stroke.

For the study, researchers followed around 500 older adults over four years to see if they experienced any cognitive impairments.

The results showed that the best mindset was optimism, which was linked to a lower risk of developing cognitive impairment.

Ms Katerina Gawronski, the study’s first author, said:

“We felt like this was an important topic to investigate and to our knowledge, it’s the first study to examine the link between optimism and cognitive impairment in older adults.
We found that optimism was indeed associated with better cognitive health over time.”


Best mindset can be learned

The good news is that optimism is not fixed in stone.

Exercises such as visualising your ‘best possible self‘ have been shown to increase optimism.

Here is how I’ve previously explained the exercise:

Visualising your best possible self may sound like an exercise in fantasy but, crucially, it does have to be realistic. 

Carrying out this exercise typically involves imagining your life in the future, but a future where everything that could go well, has gone well. 

You have reached those realistic goals that you have set for yourself. 

Then, to help cement your visualisation, you commit your best possible self to paper. 

This exercise draws on the proven benefits of expressive writing.

Dr Eric Kim, a study co-author, said:

“Therefore, optimism may be a novel and promising target for prevention and intervention strategies aimed at improving cognitive health.”

The study was published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine (Gawronski et al., 2016).
source: PsyBlog

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Best Supplement To Improve IQ By 10%

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — an omega-3 fatty acid — can improve IQ by 10%, new research finds.

People in the study, who were aged over 65, were given 2g/day of DHA for a year.

A control group was given a placebo of corn oil.

The high quality study involved 240 Chinese individuals.

Their IQ and other measures of cognitive function were tested after 6 and 12 months.

The study’s authors explain the results:

“…oral DHA supplementation (2 g/d) for 12 months beneficially affected global cognitive function, specifically participants’ performance on the Information and Digit Span tasks.”

Brain scans also revealed changes in the hippocampus, an area of the brain critical for memory.

The study’s authors write:

“The hippocampus is a critical brain region for memory formation and plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory and spatial navigation.
Our results suggest that 12-month DHA supplementation significantly increased hippocampus volume.
Notably, we observed a 6.13% volume increase in the left hippocampus, a 1.89% increase in the right hippocampus, and a 0.29% increase in total hippocampus.”

Best supplement for older adults
with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Best supplement combination?

The use of omega-3 to prevent dementia has provided some mixed results.

B vitamins also seem to be important in warding off cognitive decline.

A recent study found that B vitamins combined with omega-3 can help slow mental decline in older people with memory problems.

The study’s first author, Dr Abderrahim Oulhaj explained the results:

‘We found that for people with low levels of Omega-3, the vitamin supplements had little to no effect.
But for those with high baseline Omega-3 levels, the B vitamins were very effective in preventing cognitive decline compared to the placebo.’

Other studies, though, have been less positive about the benefits of omega-3 for cognitive decline.

It is likely that the combination of nutrients — including both B vitamins and omega-3 will turn out to be the crucial factor.

The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Zhang et al., 2016).
OCTOBER 14, 2016
source: PsyBlog


Keep Busy! Stay Sharp!

Study suggests a full schedule may enhance your mental prowess

By Amy Norton    HealthDay Reporter   WebMD News from HealthDay

TUESDAY, May 17, 2016 (HealthDay News) – Although people complain when their schedule gets too busy, new research suggests that being overbooked might actually be good for the brain.

The study of older adults found that those with packed schedules tended to do better on tests of memory, information processing and reasoning.

Researchers said the findings don’t prove that “busyness” makes us smarter. For one, sharper people may seek out more mental stimulation. These people may also have more resources, such as higher incomes, that allow them to lead active lives.

On the other hand, past research has found that learning new skills can improve older adults’ overall mental acuity, said study leader Sara Festini.

“We think it is likely that being busy is good for your cognition,” said Festini, a researcher with the Center for Vital Longevity at the University of Texas at Dallas.

She and her colleagues reported the findings in the May 17 online issue of Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

The results are in line with those from many previous studies, the researchers said.

Past research has found that older adults who are more active — mentally, physically or socially — tend to have better mental function and a lower risk of dementia. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends all three types of activity for maintaining better brain health.

According to Festini, busyness could be a proxy for people’s “cognitive engagement” in daily life.

For the study, she and her colleagues had 330 men and women rate their “busyness” levels — asking questions such as, “How often do you have too many things to do each day to actually get them all done?” The study volunteers were between 50 and 89 years old.

The researchers also gave the volunteers a battery of tests that gauged memory, information processing speed, reasoning and vocabulary.

Multi-ethnic group of adults practicing tai chi in park.  Main focus on senior man (60s).

Multi-ethnic group of adults practicing tai chi in park. Main focus on senior man (60s).

Overall, the study found, the busier people were in their daily lives, the better their test performance — especially when it came to remembering specific events from the past. The findings were not explained by age or education level.

Still, there are other potential explanations for the connection, said Debra Fleischman, a professor of neurological and behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago.

“Occupation, income, ethnicity and race are all important factors that can influence accessibility to resources that support an active lifestyle,” said Fleischman, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Plus, she added, people’s health – physical and mental – could affect both their daily activities and their scores on tests of memory and thinking (“cognition”).

Festini said she was interested in studying the subject because people often talk about their tight schedules, but there’s little research on how our “busyness” relates to health.

On one hand, a packed schedule could cause unhealthy levels of stress; on the other, busy people may have more “effortful engagement” with life, the researchers suggested.

According to Fleischman, it would be interesting to know whether the busy study participants were stressed out by their schedules. And that, she noted, could vary by age.

Older adults might tend to see a hectic schedule as a good thing – a sign that they have purpose in life, Fleischman said. But, she added, it’s possible that younger people could view busyness in a more negative light.

The current findings say nothing about the types of activities that are related to sharper mental skills, Fleischman pointed out. But past studies have already shown there may be benefits from physical exercise, mental tasks — such as crossword puzzles and reading — and social activities, she said.

“Daily activity is important to promote cognitive health in people over age 50,” Fleischman said.
Festini agreed. “[This study] provides further motivation to seek out additional activities and to keep learning new skills throughout adulthood,” she said.

Article Sources 
SOURCES: Sara Festini, Ph.D., postdoctoral researcher, Center for Vital Longevity, University of Texas at Dallas; Debra Fleischman, Ph.D., professor, neurological and behavioral sciences, Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago; May 17, 2016, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, online

source: HealthDay www.webmd.com


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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20 Everyday Activities That Keep Memory and Thinking Sharp

These 20 activities have been linked to reduced risk of developing memory and thinking problems.

Computer use, as well as socialising and doing arts and crafts in middle age may help preserve memory in later years, a new study suggests.

The research, published in the journal Neurology, asked 256 seniors to report how often they took part in various everyday activities (Peterson et al., 2015).

None of the people, whose average age was 87, had memory and thinking problems at the start of the study.

The artistic activities included:

  • drawing,
  • sculpting,
  • and painting.

Crafts included:

  • pottery,
  • quilling,
  • woodworking,
  • ceramics,
  • quilting,
  • and sewing.



Socialising included:

  • socialising with friends,
  • trips to the movies, theatre or concerts,
  • book clubs,
  • Bible study
  • and travel.

Using the computer included:

  • conducting web searches,
  • online purchases,
  • using the internet,
  • and computer games.

Around four years later just under half had developed mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

MCI may include problems with memory, planning, language and attention which are relatively subtle in comparison to dementia.

However, those who had participated regularly in arts, crafts, socialising or computer use were less likely to develop MCI.

The activities which appeared to have the strongest protective effect were artistic.

People who engaged in artistic activities in middle and old age were 73% less likely to develop memory and thinking problems.

For crafts the reduction in the chance was 45%, for socialising it was 55% and for computer use it was 53%.

Professor Rosebud Roberts, one of the study’s authors and an expert on the causes of dementia, said:

“As millions of older US adults are reaching the age where they may experience these memory and thinking problem called Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), it is important we look to find lifestyle changes that may stave off the condition.

Our study supports the idea that engaging the mind may protect neurons, or the building blocks of the brain, from dying, stimulate growth of new neurons, or may help recruit new neurons to maintain cognitive activities in old age.”

source: PsyBlog


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.

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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Diet, Exercise and Brain Training May Help Keep the Mind ‘Sharp’

Thursday March 12 2015

This is one of the first studies in which a combination of interventions has been studied

“Dancing, doing Sudoku and eating fish and fruit may be the way to stave off … mental decline,” The Guardian reports. A Finnish study suggests a combination of a healthy diet, exercise and brain training may help stave off mental decline in the elderly.

The study looked at whether a combined programme of guidance on healthy eating, exercise, brain training and the management of risk factors such as high blood pressure (associated with vascular dementia) could have an effect on dementia risk and cognitive function.

Half of the 1,260 people in this two-year study were randomly allocated to receive this programme, while the other half acted as a control group, receiving only regular health advice. All participants were given standard tests to measure their brain function at the start, and at 12 and 24 months.

Researchers found that overall, scores measuring brain function in the group who received the programme were 25% higher than in the control group. For a part of the test called “executive functioning” (the brain’s ability to organise and regulate thought processes), scores in the intervention group were 83% higher.

While the results of this well-conducted study are certainly encouraging, it’s worth pointing out that the study does not look at whether people developed dementia in the longer term.

Most experts agree that a healthy diet, exercise and an active social life with plenty of interests may help reduce the risk of dementia.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from several institutes in Scandinavia, including the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, and the University of Eastern Finland.

It was funded by a number of different academic centres, including the Academy of Finland, La Carita Foundation, Alzheimer Association, Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, Juho Vainio Foundation, Novo Nordisk Foundation, Finnish Social Insurance Institution, Ministry of Education and Culture, Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, and Axa Research Fund, EVO grants, Swedish Research Council, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life, and Welfare and af Jochnick Foundation.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet.

The study was widely covered in the UK media. Most coverage was fair, although many papers reported that the study showed how lifestyle interventions can reduce the risk of dementia. This was incorrect – the study looked only at cognitive performance in people at risk of dementia.

A study with a much longer follow-up would be required to see if the interventions used in the study were effective in preventing dementia.

Reports also tended to only concentrate on the lifestyle interventions in the study and not the medical management. One of the interventions involved doctors and nurses monitoring risk factors for dementia, such as blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), with advice where needed for people to get medication from their GP.

It is possible some people found to be at risk – because, for example, they had high blood pressure – were prescribed medication by a physician and it was this that led to the improvement in cognitive function.

What kind of research was this?

This was a double blind randomised controlled trial (RCT) looking at whether a comprehensive programme of healthy eating, exercise, brain training and management of risk factors could have an effect on mental function in older people at risk of dementia. An RCT is the best kind of study to find out whether an intervention is effective.

The researchers say previous observational studies have suggested a link between cognitive function in older people and factors such as diet, fitness and heart health.

They say their study is the first large RCT looking at an intensive programme addressing whether a combination of interventions might help prevent cognitive decline in elderly people at risk of dementia.

What did the research involve?

Older adults at risk of dementia were randomised to receive either an intervention that addressed their diet, exercise, cognitive training and cardiovascular risk monitoring, or general health advice. After two years, the participants were compared using a range of cognitive assessments.

Researchers recruited 1,260 people aged 60 to 77. To be eligible, participants had to have a dementia risk score of six points or higher. This is a validated score based on age, sex, education, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), total blood cholesterol levels, and physical activity. The score ranges from 0 to15 points.

Participants also had to have average cognitive function of slightly lower than expected for their age. This was established by cognitive screening using validated tests.

What’s good for the heart tends to also be good for the brain

Anyone with previously diagnosed or suspected dementia was excluded. People with other major disorders, such as major depression, cancer, or severe loss of vision or hearing, were also excluded.

Participants were randomly assigned either into the intervention group or to a control group.

All participants had their blood pressure, weight, BMI, and hip and waist circumference measured at the start of the study, and again at 6, 12 and 24 months.

All participants (control and intervention group) met the study physician at screening and at 24 months for a detailed medical history and physical examination.

At baseline, the study nurse gave all participants oral and written information and advice on healthy diet and physical, cognitive, and social activities beneficial for the management of cardiovascular risk factors and disability prevention.

Blood samples were collected four times during the study: at baseline and at 6, 12, and 24 months. Laboratory test results were mailed to all participants, together with general written information about the clinical significance of the measurements and advice to contact primary health care if needed.

The control group received regular health advice.

The intervention group additionally received an intensive programme comprising four interventions.


The diet advice was based on Finnish nutritional recommendations. This was tailored to individual participants, but generally included high consumption of fruit and vegetables, consumption of wholegrain cereals and low-fat milk and meat products, limiting sugar intake to less than 50g a day, use of vegetable margarine and rapeseed oil instead of butter, and at least two portions of fish a week.


The physical exercise programme followed international guidelines. It consisted of individually tailored programmes for progressive muscle strength (one to three times a week) and aerobic exercise (two to five times a week), using activities preferred by each participant. Aerobic group exercise was also provided.

Cognitive training

There were group and individual sessions, which included advice on age-related cognitive changes, memory and reasoning strategies, and individual computer-based cognitive training, conducted in two periods of six months each.

Medical management

Management of metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors for dementia was based on national guidelines. This included regular meetings with the study nurse or doctor for measurements of blood pressure, weight and BMI, hip and waist circumference, physical examinations, and recommendations for lifestyle management. Study doctors did not prescribe medication, but recommended participants contact their own doctor if needed.

Participants underwent a cognitive assessment using standard neuropsychological tests called the neurological test battery (NTB) at baseline and at 12 and 24 months. The test measures factors such as executive functioning, processing speed and memory.

Researchers looked at any changes in people’s cognitive performance over the course of the study, as measured by an NTB total score, with higher scores suggesting better performance.

They also looked at various scores on individual tests. They assessed participation in the intervention group with self reports at 12 and 24 months and recorded their attendance throughout the trial.

What were the basic results?

In total, 153 people (12%) dropped out of the trial.

People in the intervention group had 25% higher overall NTB scores after 24 months compared with the control group.

Improvement in other areas, such as executive function, was 83% higher in the intervention group, and 150% higher in processing speed. However, the intervention appeared to have no effect on people’s memory.

Forty-six participants in the intervention group and six in the control group suffered side effects; the most common adverse event was musculoskeletal pain (32 individuals in the intervention versus none in the control group).

Self-reported adherence to the programme was high.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers say their findings support the effectiveness of a “multi-domain” approach for elderly people at risk of dementia. They will be investigating possible mechanisms whereby the intervention might affect brain function.


This RCT suggests a combination of advice on lifestyle, group activities, individual sessions and monitoring of risk factors appear to improve mental ability in elderly people at risk of dementia.

Whether it will have an effect on the development of dementia in such a population is uncertain, but the participants will be followed for at least seven years to determine whether the improved mental scores seen here are followed by reduced levels of dementia.

The trial was done in Finland and its results may not be applicable elsewhere, although the interventions included, such as diet and exercise, are similar to other countries’ recommendations.

This study shows that a combined approach is beneficial. What is not clear is how active the clinical management of cardiovascular risk factors was in each group. Both groups were given health advice, but the intervention group were monitored more regularly for risk factors such as high blood pressure.

Though the study physicians did not prescribe medication, the participants were informed of results so they could seek advice from their GP. We do not know how many people in each group sought treatment for high blood pressure or cholesterol, and this could have affected the results.

All in all, it seems this study provides further evidence of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

A good rule is that what is good for the heart, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet, is also good for the brain. It may also be useful to regard your brain as a type of muscle. If you don’t exercise it regularly, it may well weaken.

Not all cases of dementia are preventable, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.

source: www.nhs.uk