2012 July 08 Sunday
Parkinson's Onset Preceded By Other Symptoms

Parkinson's disease is about more than shaking limbs. Years before the visible shaking comes pain, emotional health problems, and physical health problems. This is yet another reason why we need biotechnologies to reverse aging. All the things that go wrong with us as we age ought not be allowed to happen.

Amsterdam, NL, July 2, 2012 – Growing evidence suggests that Parkinson's disease (PD) often starts with non-motor symptoms that precede diagnosis by several years. In the first study to examine patterns in the quality of life of Parkinson' disease patients prior to diagnosis, researchers have documented declines in physical and mental health, pain, and emotional health beginning several years before the onset of the disease and continuing thereafter. Their results are reported in the latest issue of Journal of Parkinson's Disease.

Pain. Aging brains cause pain. So lets make our brains young again. Risks rise with age. If you can make it to 100 years your odds will go up to about 10%.

Think of PD as accelerated aging of part of the brain.

"We observed a decline in physical function in PD patients relative to their healthy counterparts beginning three years prior to diagnosis in men and seven and a half years prior to diagnosis in women," says lead investigator Natalia Palacios, PhD, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health. "The decline continues at a rate that is five to seven times faster than the average yearly decline caused by normal aging in individuals without the disease."

Given all the roles served by dopaminergic neurons (the kinds of neurons lost in PD) it is not surprising that their loss causes a host of other problems.

By Randall Parker    2012 July 08 06:51 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2012 April 22 Sunday
Aging Brain Circuits For Decision Making

If you find your ability to make decisions in novel situations is declining blame deteriorating white-matter neurons that connect the medial prefrontal cortex to other parts of the brain.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – If you are an aging baby boomer and you've noticed it's a bit harder to drive to unfamiliar locations or to pick a new brand of olive oil at the supermarket, you can blame it on the white matter in your brain.

A brain-mapping study, published in the Apr. 11 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, has found that people's ability to make decisions in novel situations decreases with age and is associated with a reduction in the integrity of two specific white-matter pathways that connect an area in the cerebral cortex called the medial prefrontal cortex with two other areas deeper in the brain.

Reports like this that goes into greater details about brain aging underscore the undesirability of brain aging. The idea that you get great wisdom with age is hard to reconcile with the scientific insights into how your brain deteriorates. Sure, we learn from going thru life. But in the future we will be able to get brain rejuvenation therapies that will enable us to better learn and retain life's lessons and also avoid making bad decisions due to aging brain circuits.

By Randall Parker    2012 April 22 10:59 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2012 January 11 Wednesday
Brain Performance Starts Decaying At Age 45

Your brain roller coaster starts gliding downward at age 45.

As part of the Whitehall II cohort study, medical data was extracted for 5,198 men and 2,192 women, aged between 45 and 70 at the beginning of the study, monitored over a 10-year period. The cognitive functions of the participants were evaluated three times over this time. Individual tests were used to assess memory, vocabulary, reasoning and verbal fluency.

The results show that cognitive performance (apart from the vocabulary tests) declines with age and more rapidly so as the individual's age increases. The decline is significant in each age group.

For example, during the period studied, reasoning scores decreased by 3.6 % for men aged between 45 and 49, and 9.6 % for those aged between 65 and 70. The corresponding figures for women stood at 3.6% and 7.4% respectively.

Brain aging is a tremendous waste of resources and we should support research aimed at reversing it.

On a related note surgeons peak between ages 35 and 50. Not surprising since training takes many years and their nervous systems are aging.

Surgeons aged between 35 and 50 years provide the safest care compared with their younger or older colleagues, finds a study published on bmj.com today.

The findings raise concerns about ongoing training and motivation of surgeons during their careers.

Typically, experts reach their peak performance between the ages of 30 and 50 years or after about 10 years' experience in their specialty, but few studies have measured the association between clinicians' experience and performance.

It would make sense to train medical doctors, especially surgeons, starting about 5 years earlier. They would then be able to enter their peak performing years at younger ages and spend more time at peak performance before nervous system aging starts to take its toll. That is true as well for many other occupations where high cognitive performance is essential. Teens should have access to online courses and tests to allow them to study and take tests all year round and at all hours of every day and night.

By Randall Parker    2012 January 11 10:28 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2011 December 28 Wednesday
Slower Brain Aging For Elderly On Better Diets?

Junk foods junk up your brain.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – New research has found that elderly people with higher levels of several vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids in their blood had better performance on mental acuity tests and less of the brain shrinkage typical of Alzheimer's disease – while "junk food" diets produced just the opposite result.

The study was among the first of its type to specifically measure a wide range of blood nutrient levels instead of basing findings on less precise data such as food questionnaires, and found positive effects of high levels of vitamins B, C, D, E and the healthy oils most commonly found in fish.

The research was done by scientists from the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Ore., and the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. It was published today in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Eat fish and healthy foods. Avoid junk foods.

The most favorable cognitive outcomes and brain size measurements were associated with two dietary patterns – high levels of marine fatty acids, and high levels of vitamins B, C, D and E.

Consistently worse cognitive performance was associated with a higher intake of the type of trans-fats found in baked and fried foods, margarine, fast food and other less-healthy dietary choices.

Slow your brain's aging. If you can keep it fairly intact long enough then rejuvenation therapies will eventually enable you to get a younger brain again.

By Randall Parker    2011 December 28 10:00 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (8)
2011 August 10 Wednesday
Exercise After Bacterial Infection Protects Brain

Suppose you and your pet rat both come down with a bacterial infection. It could even be you and the rat that lives in your yard or basement. Okay, there's a rat in your life somehow or other. So you both get an infection. You both get over the infection. Suppose you don't get much exercise after the infection. But the rat either runs away from your cat or it rides an exercise wheel. The rat getting exercise will avoid memory loss that a bacterial infection will otherwise cause. So the rat's going to gain on your mentally unless you exercise too.

A small amount of exercise shields older animals from memory loss following a bacterial infection, according to a study in the August 10 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings suggest moderate exercise may lead to several changes in the brain that boost its ability to protect itself during aging — a period of increased vulnerability.

In the new study, researchers led by Ruth Barrientos, PhD, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, found running on an exercise wheel protected older rats from memory loss following an Escherichia coli (E. coli) infection. Wheel-running also blunted changes in the hippocampus — an area of the brain involved in learning and memory — that typically follow bacterial infection in aging animals. In humans, older adults are more likely than the young to suffer memory impairment following severe bacterial infection or injury.

The rats are probably all telling each other to shake the lead out and get going. They don't want to lose their memory of when the cats come around or where to find the best garbage.

Some people are waiting for drugs to reverse aging while the rats are busy exercising.

"While many of us are hopeful about developing a pharmaceutical intervention to reverse the effects of aging, this study provides exciting evidence that a little moderate exercise is protective against age-related problems with health and immunity," said Jonathan Godbout, PhD, an expert on aging at Ohio State University, who was unaffiliated with the study.

One thing regular FuturePundit readers should know by now: The rats, mice, rabbits, and assorted other animals manipulate scientists into giving the lab animals all the cool new treatments first. So once the drugs for reversing brain aging arrive you just know the rats will get these drugs 10 years before humans do. You can't compete with rats using drugs. Make peace with this fact and get more exercise for your brain.

By Randall Parker    2011 August 10 09:22 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2011 July 19 Tuesday
Circadian Clock Signal Weakens With Age

A pair of collections of cells known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus at the base of the brain in the hypothalamus regulate the body's circadian rhythm as the sun goes up and down. As we age those cells do a poorer job of putting out a wave signal that orchestrates the complex mechanisms that make us wake up and go to sleep.

A new study of the brain's master circadian clock — known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN — reveals that a key pattern of rhythmic neural activity begins to decline by middle age. The study, whose senior author is UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, may have implications for the large number of older people who have difficulty sleeping and adjusting to time changes.

Can't sleep as well as you get older? A really small number of cells is at fault. Imagine how much better you'd sleep if several thousand cells could get rejuvenated or replaced.

Sleep quality declines as people age. This is yet another reminder: aging sucks. Really. Totally. There's no upside.

"Aging has a profound effect on circadian timing," said Block, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and of physiological science. "It is very clear that animals' circadian systems begin to deteriorate as they age, and humans have enormous problems with the quality of their sleep as they age, difficulty adjusting to time-zone changes and difficulty performing shift-work, as well as less alertness when awake. There is a real change in the sleep–wake cycle.

This result reminds me of the vicious cycles that drive much of aging. Deterioration of sleep quality reduces the repair that happens to the body as we sleep. This accelerates aging, including aging of components that regulate sleep.

With age the signal level from the SCN does not go down as far at night.

"In the middle-aged mice, they still have a circadian rhythm, but the amplitude is reduced," Block said. "During the nighttime, when electrical impulse activity levels are usually fairly low, the levels have increased. Thus, the difference between the highest levels of activity during the daytime and the lowest levels of activity during the nighttime is much smaller in the middle-aged mice."

We need a way to do periodic service on the SCN. Replace some worn out neurons and support cells perhaps. But that's going to be tricky to do in a highly targeted way. Another recent report shows that neural stem cells need a supporting cell type to enable them to replicate. Creating a local environment with the right supporting cells orchestrated to do the needed repair operations might turn out to be very difficult. Will it be enough to get the right cell type delivered to the right area? Or will 3-D scaffolding on a miniature scale be needed?

By Randall Parker    2011 July 19 09:24 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (9)
2011 February 01 Tuesday
Exercise Protects Memory Formation Capability

If you forget to exercise you won't be able to remember other things either.

PITTSBURGH, PA., and CHAMPAIGN, ILL.—A new study shows that one year of moderate physical exercise can increase the size of the brain's hippocampus in older adults, leading to an improvement in spatial memory.

The project—conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, University of Illinois, Rice University, and Ohio State University—is considered the first study of its kind focusing on older adults who are already experiencing atrophy of the hippocampus, the brain structure involved in all forms of memory formation. The study, funded through the National Institute on Aging, appears in the Jan. 31 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The right hippocampus expanded in the older folks who exercised and shrank in the older folks who did not exercise. If you sit idly your capacity to form memories will decay.

The scientists recruited 120 sedentary older people without dementia and randomly placed them in one of two groups—those who began an exercise regimen of walking around a track for 40 minutes a day, three days a week, or those limited to stretching and toning exercises. Magnetic resonance images were collected before the intervention, after six months, and at the end of the one-year study.

The aerobic exercise group demonstrated an increase in volume of the left and right hippocampus of 2.12 percent and 1.97 percent, respectively. The same regions of the brain in those who did stretching exercises decreased in volume by 1.40 and 1.43 percent, respectively.

Also check out my recent related post: Lift Weights For More Brain Power?

By Randall Parker    2011 February 01 10:10 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2010 November 16 Tuesday
Silent Vascular Disease Common With Age

Vascular disease isn't just about massive heart attacks and strokes. Vascular disease causes brain damage that degrades brain function as we age.

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Older people who are leading active, healthy lifestyles often have silent vascular disease that can be seen on brain scans that affect their ability to think, according to a new study led by UC Davis researchers and published online today in the Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA Archives journals.

Silent undiagnosed vascular disease in the brain is really common in older folks.

"This study shows that silent vascular disease is really common as we get older and it influences our thinking abilities," said Charles DeCarli, professor of neurology in the School of Medicine at UC Davis and director of the UC Davis Alzheimer's Disease Center. "We're beginning to realize that vascular disease plays a major role in Alzheimer's disease — they go together."

The study findings are based on data from participants in the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. The initiative tracks individuals who are normal, those who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and people with Alzheimer's disease using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) imaging and laboratory and cognitive testing to track changes in their cognitive status.

If you aren't worried about your arteries and heart because you figure we all have go to die somehow then think again. Clogged arteries are about more than heart attacks. The damage that accumulates as we age doesn't just add up until sudden massive system failure. It causes many smaller cuts over years.

It has been too long since my last vitamin D plug. Well, witamin D might help protect the brain against strokes.

Low levels of vitamin D, the essential nutrient obtained from milk, fortified cereals and exposure to sunlight, doubles the risk of stroke in whites, but not in blacks, according to a new report by researchers at Johns Hopkins.

Stroke is the nation's third leading cause of death, killing more than 140,000 Americans annually and temporarily or permanently disabling over half a million when there is a loss of blood flow to the brain.

Researchers say their findings, to be presented Nov. 15 at the American Heart Association's (AHA) annual Scientific Sessions in Chicago, back up evidence from earlier work at Johns Hopkins linking vitamin D deficiency to higher rates of death, heart disease and peripheral artery disease in adults.

For more ideas on how to preserve your brain from vascular damage check out my Aging Diet Heart Studies category archive.

By Randall Parker    2010 November 16 11:31 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2010 November 11 Thursday
Aging Brains Notice More Irrelevant Information

The ability to filter out irrelevant info declines with age. So what sorts of technological aids can reduce the flow of irrelevant stimuli?

A University of Toronto study shows that visual attention — the brain’s ability to selectively filter unattended or unwanted information from reaching awareness — diminishes with age, leaving older adults less capable of filtering out distracting or irrelevant information. Further, this age-related "leaky" attentional filter fundamentally impacts the way visual information is encoded into memory. Older adults with impaired visual attention have better memory for "irrelevant" information. The research, conducted by members of U of T’s Department of Psychology, will be published Wednesday, November 3 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

I've long thought it would help to create less cluttered workplaces, reduce lighting, put up more real walls rather than cubicle walls, and reduce sources of interrupt. The advantage of doing so probably increases with age. Aging minds are probably more easily distracted into taking note of many sort of off-topic things in an environment.

On a related note, people daydreaming or otherwise thinking about something besides their current activities are less happy.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they're doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy. So says a study that used an iPhone web app to gather 250,000 data points on subjects' thoughts, feelings, and actions as they went about their lives.

The research, by psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University, is described this week in the journal Science.

"A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind," Killingsworth and Gilbert write. "The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost."

The researchers believe the direction of causation is from mind-wandering to unhappiness, rather than the other way around.

Time-lag analyses conducted by the researchers suggested that their subjects' mind-wandering was generally the cause, not the consequence, of their unhappiness.

"Many philosophical and religious traditions teach that happiness is to be found by living in the moment, and practitioners are trained to resist mind wandering and to 'be here now,'" Killingsworth and Gilbert note in Science. "These traditions suggest that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind."

This new research, the authors say, suggests that these traditions are right.

Stay on topic and stay in the present. You'll be happier if you can manage this.

By Randall Parker    2010 November 11 10:19 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2010 November 04 Thursday
MRI Shows Brain Lactic Acid As Aging Indicator

A magnetic resonance imaging scan in mice shows lactic acid as a predictor for other signs of brain aging.

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have shown that they may be able to monitor the aging process in the brain, by using MRI technique to measure the brain lactic acid levels. Their findings suggest that the lactate levels increase in advance of other aging symptoms, and therefore could be used as an indicator of aging and age-related diseases of the CNS.

My initial reaction to the first paragraph: Geez, I hope this is an indicator of poor brain circulation and therefore low brain oxygen. That's something we could hope to delay. But no. The researchers believe the rising lactic acid is an indicator of accumulated mitochondrial gene damage. A much harder problem to avoid or fix.

In the current study, which is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers show that the damage to the mitochondria slowly increases with age in brains of mice and causes altered expression in certain genes that are responsible for the formation of lactate. They also show that brain lactate levels may increase in advance of other indices of aging, and can be detected using non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging techniques.

The researchers suspect MRI measurements of lactic acid will also predict brain deterioration in humans.

We need gene therapy that will deliver replacement mitochondrial genes to all the cells in the body, especially to brain cells.

Brain rejuvenation is going to be the most difficult challenge for reversing general human aging. The cells must be repaired in place rather than replaced with new organs or stem cell therapy. So brain rejuvenation requires the most advanced techniques for cell repair.

By Randall Parker    2010 November 04 10:28 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2010 October 06 Wednesday
Testosterone, Alzheimer's Disease Link Seen

Wondering if you should take testosterone when you get older? A study on Chinese men finds a link between low testosterone and onset of Alzheimer's.

ST. LOUIS -- Low levels of the male sex hormone, testosterone, in older men is associated with the onset of Alzheimer's disease, according to research by a team that includes a Saint Louis University scientist.

Of course a study like this one does not prove a direction of cause and effect. It could be that poor circulation and other factors that boost Alzheimer's risk also cause lower blood testosterone.

"Having low testosterone may make you more vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease," said John E. Morley, M.D., director of the division of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University and a study co-investigator. "The take-home message is we should pay more attention to low testosterone, particularly in people who have memory problems or other signs of cognitive impairment."

The guys who developed Alzheimer's also had high blood pressure. Well, cardiovascular problems can accelerate aging of the brain. So at least part of the cause and effect does not involve testosterone.

Researchers studied 153 Chinese men who were recruited from social centers. They were at least 55 years and older, lived in the community and didn't have dementia. Of those men, 47 had mild cognitive impairment - or problems with clear thinking and memory loss.

Within a year, 10 men who all were part of the cognitively impaired group developed probable Alzheimer's disease. These men also had low testosterone in their body tissues; elevated levels of the ApoE 4 (apolipoprotein E) protein, which is correlated with a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease; and high blood pressure.

The press release mentions a previously established connection between low testosterone, impaired thinking, and Alzheimer's Disease in Caucasian men. This report therefore shows the same pattern in a different racial group and culture.

By Randall Parker    2010 October 06 11:04 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2010 September 18 Saturday
Old Age Memory Losses All On Road To Dementia

If you are losing memory as you age the process causing that is likely the same process that causes dementia and Alzheimer's disease - just not as far along.

Simply getting older is not the cause of mild memory lapses often called senior moments, according to a new study by researchers at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.  The study, published in the September 15, 2010, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that even the very early mild changes in memory that are much more common in old age than dementia are caused by the same brain lesions associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

“The very early mild cognitive changes once thought to be normal aging are really the first signs of progressive dementia, in particular Alzheimer’s disease.” said Robert S.Wilson, PhD, neuropsychologist at Rush University Medical Center. “The pathology in the brain related to Alzheimer’s and other dementias has a much greater impact on memory function in old age than we previously recognized.”

Brain aging is my most disliked form of aging. Your brain is who you are. I do not want to lose my own identity, not even part of it, before death. Brain decay is like living daily partial death.

Nuns, priests, and brothers had their cognitive function tracked and then their brains were autopsied.

The study involved over 350 nuns, priests and brothers who participated in Rush’s Religious Orders Study and completed up to 13 years of annual cognitive testing. After death, the brains were examined for the lesions associated with dementia: neurofibrillary tangles, cerebral infarction (stroke), and Lewy bodies.

These results suggest that anything that decreases your odds of dementia or Alzheimer's will also slow and delay brain aging.

The brain changes that caused mild decline in cognitive function were the same in kind but not extent as compared to more advanced mental decay.

Researchers looked at the rate of change in cognitive function over time. The last four to five years of life showed a very rapid decline. The preceding years showed a much more gradual decline that would be described as normal aging.

As expected, pathologic lesions were related to the rapid decline, but researchers were somewhat surprised to find the pathology was very strongly predictive of the mild changes in cognitive function.

Higher tangle density adversely affected all forms of cognition at all trajectory points. Both Lewy bodies and stroke approximately doubled the rate of gradual memory decline, and almost no gradual decline was seen in the absence of lesions.

If you live a long time you can not avoid the neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques characteristic of Alzheimer's patients. By age 90 virtually everyone still alive has these tangles and plaques in their brains. We need ways to prevent and reverse their formation.

Want to reduce your odds of memory loss with age? Read my Aging Diet Brain Studies category archive and check out which dietary changes you can make to improve your odds.

By Randall Parker    2010 September 18 12:58 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2010 August 04 Wednesday
Brain Aging Rate Tied To Heart Pumping Output

People with stronger hearts appear to experience a slower rate of brain aging.

DALLAS, Aug. 2, 2010 — Keep your heart healthy and you may slow down the aging of your brain, according to a new study reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

In the study, people whose hearts pumped less blood had brains that appeared older than the brains of those whose hearts pumped more blood. Decreased cardiac index, the amount of blood that pumps from the heart in relation to a person's body size, was associated with decreased brain volume using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

This might sound like bad news on first reading. But its not. Why? You can do something about it and it involves brain aging.

Brain aging is going to be the most problematic part of aging to reverse. For lots of body parts we are going to be able to just grow replacement parts. But we've got to find ways to rejuvenate all the cells in the brain. Much harder. So if we can improve the performance of other body parts initially thru diet and exercise and slow brain aging then that's great news.

The heart is an easier organ to rejuvenate because large groups of cells all do the same thing: contract. Replace some of them with new cells and performance will improve for the whole heart. Since we'll probably have ways to rejuvenate hearts before we can rejuvenate the brain it is good to know that the heart rejuvenation will also slow the rate of brain aging.

What else is interesting about this result: It illustrates how the overall process of body aging has all sorts of interdependencies. Decay of some organs accelerates the decay of other organs in a vicious cycle. So interventions that improve some parts will probably help other parts as well.

Update: If you wanted to improve your heart function thru exercise at home would you use a cross trainer, an exercise bike, a hybrid exercise bike, or other device? I ask because the daylight is pretty short for much of the year. When the days are longer it is easy to go jogging or hiking at the end of the work day. But in the fall the days become so short that all the daylight hours are taken by work. Then unless you want to go out in the dark outdoor daily exercise options become pretty limited. I'm looking for sustainable forms of cardio exercise.

By Randall Parker    2010 August 04 07:52 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (15)
2010 June 01 Tuesday
High Cognitive Ability In Some Old Folks

Some older minds can make smart and astute decisions about money.

DURHAM, N.C. – Just because your mother has turned 85, you shouldn't assume you'll have to take over her financial matters. She may be just as good or better than you at making quick, sound, money-making decisions, according to researchers at Duke University.

"It's not age, it's cognition that makes the difference in decision-making," said Scott Huettel, Ph.D., Associate Professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the Duke Center for Neuroeconomic Studies. He recently led a laboratory study in which participants could gain or lose money based on their decisions.

"Once we accounted for cognitive abilities like memory and processing speed, age had nothing to do with predicting whether an individual would make the best economic decisions on the tasks we assigned," Huettel said.

Instead of federal laws against discrimination based on age it would be more useful to allow companies to test the cognitive abilities of aging workers. Someone whose mind is aging more slowly could be recognized as worth keeping around to do intellectually challenging work. Or, as is more often the case, an older laid off person applying for work would be able to prove that they still have their mental faculties.

Older and younger research subjects were measured in their cogniive abilities and also in their ability to wisely make financial decisions that put money at risk.

Duke researchers assigned a variety of economic tasks that required different types of risky decisions, so that participants could gain or lose real money. They also tested subjects' cognitive abilities – including both how fast they could process new information and how well they could remember that information. They worked with 54 older adults between 66 and 76 years of age and 58 younger adults between 18 and 35 years of age. .

Smarter older people can beat relatively less smart younger people. This isn't surprising. While old folks who are losing their reasoning abilities get a lot of attention the higher functioning ones attract less notice because they don't need help. Of course, some exceptional oldsters stand out. Warren Buffett is still making excellent financial decisions. Though he was such an outlier in ability he could fall quite a way before his capacity for making investment decisions would fall to the level of a lower ranked genius.

On a bell curve of performance, there was overlap between the younger and older groups. Many of the older subjects, aged 66 to 76, made similar decisions to many of the younger subjects (aged 18 to 35). "The stereotype of all older adults becoming more risk-averse is simply wrong," Huettel said.

"Some of the older subjects we studied were able to make better decisions than younger subjects who scored lower on tests of their cognitive abilities," Huettel said. "If I took 20 younger adults and 20 older adults, all of whom were above average on these measures, then on average, you could not tell them apart based on decisions. On the whole, it is true, more older people process slowly and has poorer memory. But there are also older people who do as well as younger people."

An older worker's mental abilities are at greater risk of deterioration a few years after hired. But some people are underemployed and could lose 5 or 10 IQ points and still have plenty of excess capacity to make their daily work decisions.

Since our populations are aging and governments are already deeply in debt the ability of future generations to retire in their 50s and early 60s is rapidly dwinding. We need to find ways to enable people to work into their 70s. The ability of smarter older people to prove their smarts to prospective employers could do a lot to help in making this adjustment possible.

By Randall Parker    2010 June 01 07:26 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2010 May 15 Saturday
Testosterone Decline Reduces Sleep Quality?

Do guys get poorer sleep with age due to declining testosterone?

Montreal, May 14, 2010 – At 30 years old, male testosterone levels drop by one to two percent annually. By age 40, men's quality of sleep begins to diminish. Could there be a link between decreased testosterone and reduced sleep? Absolutely according to Zoran Sekerovic, a graduate student from the University of Montreal Department of Psychology, who presented his findings at the annual conference of the Association francophone pour le savoir (ACFAS).

Sekerovic discovered a link between testosterone levels in men over 50 and their quality of sleep – specifically less deep sleep i.e. Phases III and IV of the slumber cycle. "Deep sleep is when the recuperation of body and mind is optimal," says Sekerovic, adding his is the first study to find this correlation.

Anyone know ways to increase the amount of deep sleep? You get less deep sleep as you age. That seems like a change we should want to avoid.

In young men, deep sleep represents 10 to 20 percent of total sleep. By age 50, it decreases to five to seven percent. For men over 60, it can disappear altogether. The study didn't find any correlation with other parts of the sleep cycle: falling asleep, Phases I and II, or paradoxical sleep, when most of dreaming occurs.

Other changes to the brain decrease sleep quality and even these researchers find only 20% of reduced deep sleep is down to lower testosterone.

The University of Montreal researcher explains that men in their 20s don't have such a correlation because their neuronal circuits are intact. "With age, there is neuronal loss and the synchronization of cerebral activity isn't as good, which is why there is a loss of deep sleep. Because deep sleep requires great synchronization," says Sekerovic. "Low levels of testosterone intensify the lack of synchronization and can explain 20 percent of men's inability to experience deep sleep."

So how to increase the amount of deep sleep one gets?

Update: The study above is in need of an obvious follow-up: an interventional trial that tests whether testosterone injections improve quantity of deep sleep. What I also wonder: Is it the testosterone or the dihydrotestosterone that boosts deep sleep? To put it another way: Do dutasteride and finasteride (which block the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone) boost or lower the amount of deep sleep that guys get?

By Randall Parker    2010 May 15 05:11 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2010 February 01 Monday
Older Brains Need Less Sleep?

As we age we sleep less without an increase in sleepiness.

WESTCHESTER, Ill. — A study in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal SLEEP suggests that healthy older adults without sleep disorders can expect to have a reduced "sleep need" and to be less sleepy during the day than healthy young adults.

Results show that during a night of eight hours in bed, total sleep time decreased significantly and progressively with age. Older adults slept about 20 minutes less than middle-aged adults, who slept 23 minutes less than young adults. The number of awakenings and the amount of time spent awake after initial sleep onset increased significantly with age, and the amount of time spent in deep, slow-wave sleep decreased across age groups. Yet even with these decreases in sleep time, intensity and continuity, older adults displayed less subjective and objective daytime sleep propensity than younger adults.

Furthermore, two additional nights involving experimental disruption of slow-wave sleep led to a similar response in all age groups. Daytime sleep propensity increased, and slow-wave sleep rebounded during a night of recovery sleep. According to the authors, this suggests that the lack of increased daytime sleepiness in the presence of an age-related deterioration in sleep quality cannot be attributed to unresponsiveness to variations in homeostatic sleep pressure. Instead, healthy aging appears to be associated with reductions in the sleep duration and depth required to maintain daytime alertness.

Does the decline in sleeping come about as a result of a real reduction in the need for sleep? Or does the mechanism that causes us to sleep become more faulty as we age?

Perhaps the brain and the rest of the body are less metabolically active as we age and therefore there's less need for sleep to do repairs and process information gathered during waking hours?

If we made ourselves continue to sleep as much in our later years as we did when we were younger would we derive any benefit?

By Randall Parker    2010 February 01 11:32 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (13)
2009 December 13 Sunday
Slower Mouse Aging Delays Alzheimer's Disease

Slowing the aging process in mice slows the development of a mouse model for Alzheimer's disease.

Therapies that can keep us younger longer might also push back the clock on Alzheimer's disease, suggests a new study of mice in the December 11th issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication.

"There's something about being youthful that protects us from Alzheimer's disease," said Andrew Dillin of The Salk Institute for Biological Studies. "People say that if you live long enough, you get Alzheimer's. But if that were true, mice that live longer should get the disease at the same rate. That's not what we found."

Biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey expects results like this one. He believes the most effective way to deal with the diseases of old age is to not grow old in the first place. A young immune system, cardiovascular system, et cetera will prevent lots of diseases that accompany old age. Stem cells and gene therapies that repair some of our aging pieces will prevent dysfunctions of those and other pieces.

The amyloid plaques still developed but had less of a toxic effect.

The researchers show that mice carrying human genes that cause them to develop Alzheimer's can be protected from that disease by turning down a pathway that is well known for its effects on aging. Surprisingly, the brains of the mice who were spared the cognitive, inflammatory and neural effects of Alzheimer's by reducing the so-called insulin/IGF signaling pathway were still riddled with amyloid plaques. However, those plaques were more tightly packed into larger clusters than they would otherwise have been.

These researchers focused on IGF-1 signaling because reduction of signaling on that pathway increases mouse life expectancy.

To answer this intriguing question, he slowed the aging process in a mouse model for Alzheimer’s by lowering the activity of the IGF-1 signaling pathway. “This highly conserved pathway plays a crucial role in the regulation of lifespan and youthfulness across many species, including worms, flies, and mice and is linked to extreme longevity in humans,” he explains. As a result, mice with reduced IGF-1 signaling live up to 35 percent longer than normal mice.

Studies like this one make me wonder whether I should take resveratrol. However, one study found no effect on IGF-1 levels from resveratrol in mice. Anyone know of other studies that suggest resveratrol might slow brain aging?

Following two months of dietary intervention, we observed reduced IGF-1 levels in CR mice, but not in resveratrol treated mice (Figure 2B).

But resveratrol does alter insulin signaling pathways.

By Randall Parker    2009 December 13 12:11 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2009 October 14 Wednesday
Dementia Seen As Terminal Illness

Aging is not graceful or dignified. More parts of the body malfunction and the extent of their malfunction becomes more severe with time. When the brain decays the result is death.

(Boston)—The clinical course of advanced dementia, including uncomfortable symptoms such as pain and high mortality, is similar to that experienced by patients of other terminal conditions, according to scientists at the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School.

The study, published in the Oct. 15 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, is the first to rigorously describe the clinical course of advanced dementia, a leading cause of death in the United States. Previous studies suggest that patients with advanced dementia are under-recognized as being at high risk of death and receive suboptimal palliative care, which aims to improve the comfort of terminally ill patients.

"Dementia is a terminal illness," says lead author Susan L. Mitchell, M.D., M.P.H., a senior scientist at the Institute for Aging Research. "As the end of life approaches, the pattern in which patients with advanced dementia experience distressing symptoms is similar to patients dying of more commonly recognized terminal conditions, such as cancer."

Alzheimer's Disease is one form of dementia, but not the only one. All forms of dementia are on my list of experiences I want to avoid in this life.

Dying from dementia sounds painful.

Over the course of the study, 177 patients died. The researchers found that the most common complications were pneumonia, fevers and eating problems, and that these complications were associated with high six-month mortality rates. Uncomfortable symptoms, including pain, pressure ulcers, shortness of breath, and aspiration, were also common and increased as the end of life approached.

We need gene therapies and cell therapies that will repair and replenish brain blood vessels, glial support cells, and neurons. We need the ability to do full brain rejuvenation.

By Randall Parker    2009 October 14 10:49 PM   Entry Permalink | Comments (6)
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