May 21st, 2013
10:47 AM ET
Sticking to a Mediterranean diet may not just be good for your heart, it may be good for your brain as well, according to a new study.
Researchers in Spain followed more than 1,000 people for six and a half years, and found that participants who were on a Mediterranean diet and supplemented that diet with extra nuts or olive oil performed better on cognitive tests at the end of the study period than the control group, which followed a lower-fat diet. The study was published Monday in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
"We found that a Mediterranean diet with olive oil was able to reduce low-grade inflammation associated with a high risk of vascular disease and cognitive impairments," said Dr. Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, the chairman of preventive medicine at the University of Navarra in Spain and a study author.
The Mediterranean diet is devoid of processed foods and bad fats, and high in whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, legumes, fish and even red wine - all things that are high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. These types of foods are known to help reduce vascular (circulatory) damage, inflammation and oxidative (free radical) damage in the brain. FULL POST
February 4th, 2013
10:47 AM ET
If you watched "Little House on the Prairie," chances are you remember the story of Mary Ingalls.
The television show and popular book series drew on the real-life experiences of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Mary, Laura's sister, went blind as a teenager after contracting scarlet fever, according to the story. Now a team of medical researchers are raising questions about whether that's true.
Dr. Beth Tarini, one of the co-authors of the paper, became intrigued by the question as a medical student.
"I was in my pediatrics rotation. We were talking about scarlet fever, and I said, 'Oh, scarlet fever makes you go blind. Mary Ingalls went blind from it,'" recalls Tarini, who is now an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan. My supervisor said, "I don't think so."
Tarini started doing research. Over the course of 10 years, she and her team of researchers, pored over old papers and letters written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, local newspaper accounts of Mary's illness and epidemiological data on blindness and infectious disease in the late 19th century. What they found was intriguing.
January 22nd, 2013
11:03 AM ET
Older Americans who have hearing loss have an accelerated decline in thinking and memory abilities, compared to those with normal hearing, according to a study published in JAMA Archives of Internal Medicine.
Those with hearing loss experience a 30% to 40% greater decline in thinking abilities compared to their counterparts without hearing loss, according to the findings published Monday.
Hearing loss is common among old older adults, affecting about two-thirds of adults 70 and older, and about one-third of adults younger than 60, according to lead study author Dr. Frank R. Lin of Johns Hopkins University. A large number of people with hearing loss are untreated, Lin explained, because they associate hearing loss with the stigma of getting older.
January 8th, 2013
05:01 PM ET
Neuroscientists have been discovering mounting evidence that being fluent in more than one language protects against age-related cognitive declines. But there's still the major question: Why?
Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to get a closer look at the brains of both bilinguals and monolinguals, comparing how their activity differs during specific tasks. This new study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Neuroscience, expands upon previous ideas that bilinguals tend to show superior task-switching abilities compared to monolinguals. The study was led by Brian Gold of the University of Kentucky in Lexington. FULL POST
January 7th, 2013
04:51 PM ET
A marker for later cognitive problems may be starting to show up in the brain tissue of former National Football League players.
According to a study published Monday in JAMA Neurology, researchers found that cognitive problems and depression are more common among aging NFL players with a history of concussion. But brain damage and mood problems among some segments of the NFL population is not stunning news anymore.
What has got scientists slightly giddy are those markers: Poor performance on cognitive tests also showing up on sophisticated brain scans. It suggests that damage post-concussion could some day be detectable by scanning the brain.
January 3rd, 2013
05:01 PM ET
Scientists can't really know what a child is thinking, but they are interested in the brain processes that happen in educational settings. To that end, a new study in PLOS Biology compares the brains of children and adults, using "Sesame Street" as a way to test what happens on a neurological level during a popular TV program aimed at learning.
"We’re kind of honing in on what brain regions are important for real-world mathematics learning in children," said lead study author Jessica Cantlon, assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.
November 29th, 2012
02:02 PM ET
It goes without saying that the human brain is complex, and would be hard to build from scratch. But researchers are looking to simulate how the brain works so that more human-like artificial intelligence can be created and we can better understand damage to our own brains.
Chris Eliasmith of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, led research published in the journal Science on a brain model called SPAUN - the Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network.
SPAUN lives inside a computer, can view images with a camera-like eye and can draw responses to questions. For example, show it the number "4" and it will write its own "4." It can even mimic the style of the numeral.
November 28th, 2012
05:00 PM ET
That cigarette may be doing more damage than meets the eye. If you’ve been smoking for an extended period of time, you’re likely familiar with at least some – if not all – of the bodily symptoms associated with smoking, including but certainly not limited to: Cravings, coughing, shortness of breath and changes to teeth, hair and skin. Coronary heart disease and/or lung cancer might not be far behind.
But a new study published in the journal Age & Ageing concludes that smoking can damage your mind, too. A consistent association was observed between smoking and lower cognitive functioning, including memory.
The bottom line: Smoking and long-term high blood pressure appear to increase the risk of cognitive decline. FULL POST
October 23rd, 2012
04:11 PM ET
One of the sad realities about Alzheimer's disease is that there's no way of preventing it – at least not yet. We know some people are genetically or biologically at greater risk than others, but researchers want to find out how we can fight it off, or at least delay it.
The strongest evidence for a lifestyle choice associated with Alzheimer's prevention is exercise. A new study in the journal Neurology supports that, and also suggests that working out is more effective at protecting the brain than cognitive challenges such as games and puzzles.
Researchers studied a group of nearly 700 participants from Scotland, all born in 1936, who reported their leisure and physical activity levels at age 70. They rated physical activity on a scale from "moving only in connection with necessary (household) chores" to "keep-fit/heavy exercise or competitive sport several times per week," the study said. Participants also rated how often they engaged in various social and intellectual activities.
October 19th, 2012
12:37 PM ET
This is not a photo of a brain bulging out of someone's head.
Doctors reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that they diagnosed a case of a rare condition called cutis verticus gyrata, which causes the folds in the scalp to form - specifically, "ridges and furrows resembling the brain's surface," write Dr. Karen Regina Rosso Schons and Andre Avelino Costa Beber of Hospital Universitario de Santa Maria in Brazil.
These scalp changes started showing up two years before doctors saw the 21-year-old patient. He didn't display symptoms of neurological or psychiatric conditions, but he did have intellectual or learning impairment.
Doctors did not attempt an intervention because "the patient had no associated disorders and the condition did not bother him cosmetically."
After a year, the patient's presentation of his condition was the same, according to the report.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.