Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Repost]Cognitive performance is better in girls whose walk to school lasts more than 15 minutes

Back in the 60’s, it was about a 20 minute walk to grade school. Maybe I did as well as I did because of the walking?
Took the bus in high school, but maybe band practice  (including marching) was a fairly good substitute??

 

BloomsCognitiveDomain

This figure illustrates the cognitive process dimension of the revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy in the cognitive domain (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). It depicts the belief that remembering is a prerequisite for understanding and that understanding is a prerequisite for application.

Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York, USA: Addison-Wesley Longman.

From the 24 July 2013 EurkAlert article

Cognitive performance of adolescent girls who walk to school is better than that of girls who travel by bus or car. Moreover, cognitive performance is also better in girls who take more than 15 minutes than in those who live closer and have a shorter walk to school.

These are some of the conclusions of a study published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The results come from findings of the nationwide AVENA (Food and Assessment of the NutritionalStatus of Spanish Adolescents) study, in which the University of Granada has participated together with the Autonomous University of Madrid, University of Zaragoza and the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid. They constitute the first international study that associates mode of commuting to school and cognitive performance.

The authors analysed a sample of 1700 boys and girls aged between 13 and 18 years (808 boys and 892 girls) in five Spanish cities (Granada, Madrid, Murcia, Santander and Zaragoza).

They studied variables of mode of commuting to school, cognitive performance, anthropometrics—like body mass index and percentage of overweight and obesity—and participants’ extracurricular physical activity. They also gathered data on their families’ socio-economic status using the mother’s level of educational achievement (primary school, secondary school or university) and the type of school (state-funded or private) that participants attended.

Information on mode of commuting to school came from a question asking participants how they usually travelled to school and giving the following response options: on foot, by bicycle, car, bus or subway, motorcycle, and others. They were also asked how long the journey to school took them.

Cognitive performance was measured by applying the Spanish version of an educational ability test. Participants completed this standardized test that measures intelligence and the individual’s basic ability for learning. The test assesses command of language, speed in performing mathematical operations, and reasoning.

In adolescence, the plasticity of the brain is greatest. The researchers affirm that, during adolescence, “the plasticity of the brain is greater than at any other time of life, which makes it the opportune period to stimulate cognitive function”. However, paradoxically, adolescence is the time of life that sees the greatest decline in physical activity, and this is greater in girls. Therefore, the authors of the study think that “inactive adolescents could be missing out on a very important stimulus to improve their learning and cognitive performance”.

“Commuting to school on foot is a healthy daily habit, which contributes to keeping the adolescent active during the rest of the day and encourages them to participate in physical and sports activities. This boosts the expenditure of energy and, all in all, leads to a better state of health”, say Palma Chillón, researcher in the Department of Physical and Sports Education of the University of Granada, and David Martínez-Gómez, of the Department of Physical and Sports Education and Human Movement (Faculty of Teacher Training and Education) of the Autonomous University of Madrid, who have both participated in the study.

July 26, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry | , , | Leave a comment

Wakeful Resting Can Boost New Memories

 

Sudoku layout

Sudoku layout (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 25th July 2012 article at Medical News Today

 

Too often our memory starts acting like a particularly porous sieve: all the important fragments that should be caught and preserved somehow just disappear. So armed with pencils and bolstered by caffeine, legions of adults, especially older adults, tackle crossword puzzles, acrostics, Sudoku and a host of other activities designed to strengthen their flagging memory muscles.

But maybe all they really need to do to cement new learning is to sit and close their eyes for a few minutes. In an article to be published in the journal Psychological Science, a publication of the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientist Michaela Dewar and her colleagues show that memory can be boosted by taking a brief wakeful rest after learning something verbally new – so keep the pencil for phone numbers – and that memory lasts not just immediately but over a longer term. ..

…Dewar explains that there is growing evidence to suggest that the point at which we experience new information is “just at a very early stage of memory formation and that further neural processes have to occur after this stage for us to be able to remember this information at a later point in time.”

We now live in a world where we are bombarded by new information and it crowds out recently acquired information. The process of consolidating memories takes a little time and the most important things that it needs are peace and quiet. 

 

 

July 25, 2012 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Study Shows High-Fructose Diet Sabotages Learning, Memory

From the 17 May article at Medical News Today

Attention, college students cramming between midterms and finals: Binging on soda and sweets for as little as six weeks may make you stupid.

A new UCLA rat study is the first to show how a diet steadily high in fructose slows the brain, hampering memory and learning – and how omega-3 fatty acids can counteract the disruption. The peer-reviewed Journal of Physiology has published the findings.

“Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think,” said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a professor of integrative biology and physiology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. “Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information. But adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimize the damage.” …

Gomez-Pinilla, a native of Chile and an exercise enthusiast who practices what he preaches, advises people to keep fructose intake to a minimum and swap sugary desserts for fresh berries and Greek yogurt, which he keeps within arm’s reach in a small refrigerator in his office. An occasional bar of dark chocolate that hasn’t been processed with a lot of extra sweetener is fine too, he said.

Still planning to throw caution to the wind and indulge in a hot-fudge sundae? Then also eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds, or take a daily DHA capsule. Gomez-Pinilla recommends one gram of DHA per day.

“Our findings suggest that consuming DHA regularly protects the brain against fructose’s harmful effects,” said Gomez-Pinilla. “It’s like saving money in the bank. You want to build a reserve for your brain to tap when it requires extra fuel to fight off future diseases.”

May 17, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment

Pollution, Crime, and Education by Mike the Mad Biologist (And a Somewhat Related Mental Health Study)

This short blog entry points to examples of how there is most likely links between air pollution and brain development and function. For example a recent study indicates schools in areas of high air pollution have higher rates of absenteeism. Crime rates have gone down in areas where lead removal was a high priority.

While it can be argued there is no cause and effect in these cases, correlations do warrant further study.

Past blogs here have included articles on the interconnection between healthy environments and healthy people. In my humble opinion, it just makes sense that if one lives in surroundings with high risk factors, one will develop conditions and diseases one is predisposed to (and perhaps more!).

A related article in the professional literature examines the links between mental health and neighborhoods.While it does not address pollution, it does have a similar holistic approach in considering the many factors which may affect a person’s health and well being.

The authors conclusion-

This study has shown that for people living in deprived areas, the quality and aesthetics of housing and neighbourhoods are associated with mental wellbeing, but so too are feelings of respect, status and progress that may be derived from how places are created, serviced and talked about by those who live there. The implication for regeneration activities undertaken to improve housing and neighbourhoods is that it is not just the delivery of improved housing that is important for mental wellbeing, but also the quality and manner of delivery.

January 30, 2012 Posted by | environmental health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Potential To Learn High-Performance Tasks With Little Or No Conscious Effort (with Video summary!)

Image with a head and three brain patterns going to people, Chinese characters and airplanes.

In the future, a person may be able to watch a computer screen and have his or her brain patterns modified to improve physical or mental performance. Researchers say an innovative learning method that uses decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging could modify brain activities to help people recuperate from an accident or disease, learn a new language or even fly a plane.

Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

[The NSF has a video about this learning method (Decoded Neurofeedback)at http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_images.jsp?cntn_id=122523&org=NSF,

http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_images.jsp?cntn_id=122523&org=NSF

news_images.jsp?cntn_id=122523&org=NSF

however on 15 December 2011

From the 14 December 2011 Medical News Today article

New research published in the journalScience suggests it may be possible to use brain technology to learn to play a piano, reduce mental stress or hit a curve ball with little or no conscious effort. It’s the kind of thing seen in Hollywood’s “Matrix” franchise.

Experiments conducted at Boston University (BU) and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, recently demonstrated that through a person’s visual cortex, researchers could use decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to induce brain activity patterns to match a previously known target state and thereby improve performance on visual tasks.

Think of a person watching a computer screen and having his or her brain patterns modified to match those of a high-performing athlete or modified to recuperate from an accident or disease. Though preliminary, researchers say such possibilities may exist in the future. …

“The most surprising thing in this study is that mere inductions of neural activation patterns corresponding to a specific visual feature led to visual performance improvement on the visual feature, without presenting the feature or subjects’ awareness of what was to be learned,” said Watanabe, who developed the idea for the research project along with Mitsuo Kawato, director of ATR lab and Yuka Sasaki, an assistant in neuroscience at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“We found that subjects were not aware of what was to be learned while behavioral data obtained before and after the neurofeedback training showed that subjects’ visual performance improved specifically for the target orientation, which was used in the neurofeedback training,” he said.

The finding brings up an inevitable question. Is hypnosis or a type of automated learning a potential outcome of the research? ….

Read entire news article

December 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Air Pollution Linked To Learning And Memory Problems, Depression

Pollution-icon

Image via Wikipedia

From the 5 July 2011 Medical News Today item

 Long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to physical changes in the brain, as well as learning and memory problems and even depression, new research in mice suggests.

While other studies have shown the damaging effects of polluted air on the heart and lungs, this is one of the first long-term studies to show the negative impact on the brain, said Laura Fonken, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University.

“The results suggest prolonged exposure to polluted air can have visible, negative effects on the brain, which can lead to a variety of health problems,” Fonken said.

“This could have important and troubling implications for people who live and work in polluted urban areas around the world.”

The study appears online this week in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

A link to the abstract of the research article may be found here.
Access to the full text of the article requires a subscription.
Click here for suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost. 

 

July 6, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Popular Baby Media May Not Actually Advance Learning

Popular Baby Media May Not Actually Advance Learning
Thu, 10 Mar 2011 08:00:00 -0600

As science catches up to marketing, doubts arise about value, effectiveness

HealthDay news image

Source: HealthDay
Related MedlinePlus Pages: Infant and Newborn DevelopmentToddler Development

April 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Learn more quickly by transcranial magnetic brain stimulation

Learn more quickly by transcranial magnetic brain stimulation
Researchers in Bochum examine the effect of TMS

Top: Brain slice preparation through the frontal cortex of a rat showing nerve cells containing Parvalbumin (colored red) and surrounded by a perineural network (colored green) in untreated animals.
Bottom: After treating the animals with the iTBS protocol, the Parvalbumin has disappeared to a great extent. The perineural network labeled by green dye that the cells still exist, but have not been destroyed by the stimulation.

From the January 28, 2011 Eureka news alert

What sounds like science fiction is actually possible: thanks to magnetic stimulation, the activity of certain brain nerve cells can be deliberately influenced. What happens in the brain in this context has been unclear up to now. Medical experts from Bochum under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Klaus Funke (Department of Neurophysiology) have now shown that various stimulus patterns changed the activity of distinct neuronal cell types. In addition, certain stimulus patterns led to rats learning more easily. The knowledge obtained could contribute to cerebral stimulation being used more purposefully in future to treat functional disorders of the brain. The researchers have published their studies in the Journal of Neuroscience ***and in the European Journal of Neuroscience.***

Magnetic pulses stimulate the brain

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a relatively new method of pain-free stimulation of cerebral nerve cells. The method, which was presented by Anthony Barker for the first time in 1985, is based on the fact that the cortex, the rind of the brain located directly underneath the skull bone, can be stimulated by means of a magnetic field. TMS is applied in diagnostics, in fundamental research and also as a potential therapeutic instrument. Used in diagnostics, one single magnetic pulse serves to test the activability of nerve cells in an area of the cortex, in order to assess changes in diseases or after consumption of medications or also following a prior artificial stimulation of the brain. One single magnetic pulse can also serve to test the involvement of a certain area of the cortex in a sensorial, motoric or cognitive task, as it disturbs its natural activity for a short period, i.e. “switches off” the area on a temporary basis.

Repeated stimuli change cerebral activity

Since the mid-1990’s, repetitive TMS has been used to make purposeful changes to the activability of nerve cells in the human cortex: “In general, the activity of the cells drops as a result of a low-frequency stimulation, i.e. with one magnetic pulse per second. At higher frequencies from five to 50 pulses per second, the activity of the cells increases”, explained Prof. Funke. Above all, the researchers are specifically addressing with the effects of specific stimulus patterns like the so-called theta burst stimulation (TBS), in which 50 Hz bursts are repeated with 5 Hz. “This rhythm is based on the natural theta rhythm of four to seven Hertz which can be observed in an EEG“, says Funke. The effect is above all dependent on whether such stimulus patterns are provided continuously (cTBS, attenuating effect) or with interruptions (intermittent, iTBS, strengthening effect).

Contact points between cells are strengthened or weakened

It is unknown to a great extent how precisely the activity of nerve cells is changed by repeated stimulation. It is assumed that the contact points (synapses) between the cells are strengthened (synaptic potentation) or weakened (synaptic depression) as a result of the repeated stimulation, a process which also plays an important role in learning. Some time ago, it was also shown that the effects of TMS and learning interact in humans.

Inhibitory cortical cells react particularly sensitive to stimulation

The researchers in Bochum have now shown for the first time that an artificial cortex stimulation specifically changes the activity of certain inhibitory nerve cells as a function of the stimulus protocol used. The balanced interaction of excitatory and inhibitory nerve cells is the absolute prerequisite for healthy functioning of the brain. Nerve cells specialised in inhibition of other nerve cells show a much greater variety in terms of cell shape and activity structure than their excitatory counterparts. Amongst other things, they produce various functional proteins in their cell body. In his studies, Prof. Funke has concentrated on the examination of the proteins Parvalbumin (PV), Calbindin-D28k (CB) and Calretinin (CR). They are formed by various inhibitory cells as a function of activity, with the result that their quantity gives information about the activity of the nerve cells in question.

Stimulus patterns act specifically on certain cells

For example, the examinations showed that activating stimulation protocol (iTBS) almost only reduces the PV content of the cells, whereas continuous stimulation attenuating activity (cTBS protocol), or a likewise attenuating 1 Hz stimulation, mainly reduces the CB production. CR formation was not changed by any of the tested stimulus protocols. Registration of the electrical activity of nerve cells confirmed a change in inhibition of the cortical activity.

Learning more quickly after stimulation

In a second study, recently published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, Prof. Funke’s group was able to show that rats also learned more quickly if they were treated with the activating stimulus protocol (iTBS) before each training, but not if the inhibiting cTBS protocol has been used. It was seen that the initially reduced formation of the protein Parvalbumin (PV) was increased again by the learning procedure, but only in the areas of the brain involved in the learning process. For animals not involved in the specific learning task, production of PV remained reduced following iTBS. “The iTBS treatment therefore initially reduces the activity of certain inhibiting nerve cells more generally, with the result that the following learning activities can be stored more easily,” concludes Prof. Funke. “This process is termed “gating”. In a second step, the learning activity restores the normal inhibition and PV production.”

More purposeful treatment in future

Repetitive TMS is already being used in clinical trials with limited success for therapy of functional disorders of the brain, above all in severe depressions. In addition, it was shown that especially disorders of the inhibitory nerve cells play an important role in neuropsychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia. “It is doubtless too early to derive new forms of treatment of functional disorders of the brain from the results of our study, but the knowledge obtained provides an important contribution for a possibly more specific application of TMS in future”, is Prof. Funke’s hope.

*** For suggestions on how to obtain this article for free or at low cost, click here

Related article

Learning causes structural changes in affected neurons
When a laboratory rat learns how to reach for and grab a food pellet — a pretty complex and unnatural act for a rodent — the acquired knowledge significantly alters the structure of the specific brain cells involved, which sprout a whopping 22 percent more dendritic spines connecting them to other motor neurons.

January 31, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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