October 17th, 2012
09:32 AM ET
Everyone has had one of those days where a night of choppy or short sleep leads into a morning of mental haze. New research presented at the Neuroscience 2012 conference suggests that sleep deprivation might be worse for you than you think.
For starters, sleepiness in the elderly could be an indication of Alzheimer's risk, says Andrew Ward, researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Ward and colleagues did a study involving 84 elderly adults without memory problems, ranging from age 66 to 87. Researchers gave them a questionnaire about how likely they were to fall asleep during various daily activities, as a way to measure sleepiness. They also measured brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
October 8th, 2012
04:01 PM ET
Eating tomatoes in your daily salad or regularly enjoying a healthy red sauce on your spaghetti could help reduce your risk of stroke, according to research published this week in the journal Neurology.
Tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant that is good for brain health, the researchers say, and cooked tomatoes seem to offer more protection than raw.
"This study adds to the evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke," says study author Jouni Karppi, of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio. "A diet containing tomatoes... a few times a week would be good for our health. However, daily intake of tomatoes may give better protection."
October 8th, 2012
04:00 PM ET
Babies are born ready to learn any language in the world, and they have linguistic super-powers that many adults don't.
For instance at 6 months old, they can distinguish between sounds in different languages that non-bilinguals hear as the same, such as an English "d" and a Hindi "d." They can also tell if someone is English or French without sound based on the mouth shapes of the speaker and rhythms. Only bilinguals retain these abilities throughout life.
Really cool, right? But around 10 months old, babies typically stop being able to make these distinctions. As they get better at perceiving a native language, they are less sensitive to non-native sights and sounds, says Janet Werker, psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Researchers are interested in probing this "critical period" of language development. They want to know what factors affect the window of time after which a baby loses sensitivity to a non-native language.
October 2nd, 2012
10:34 AM ET
Concussion impact is the same in both male and female high-school soccer players, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of Neurosurgery Pediatrics.
The only difference researchers discovered was that female soccer players report more symptoms post-concussion than male players, says lead study author Dr. Scott Zuckerman, suggesting social biases maybe the reason. But whether or not females actually suffer more serious injuries from concussions hasn't been determined.
Researchers looked at the neurocognitive scores in 80 high school soccer players, 40 girls and 40 boys of similar age, medical history, education, prior concussions, pre and post concussion testing timing. In this study baseline and post-concussion scores of verbal and visual memory, visual-motor speed, reaction time, impulse control, as well as the total number of symptoms were all examined.
September 20th, 2012
05:01 PM ET
Remember the game "telephone"? Someone starts by saying a sentence to the person next to them. That person then turns to someone else and repeats what they heard. Somehow, by the time the sentence gets to the last person in line, it's all mixed up and barely resembles the original.
Apparently our memories operate in the same way.
A study published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience looks at how we retrieve memories. It's a well-known phenomenon that retrieval is good for memory - the more you remember something, the longer you'll remember it for.
The catch, researchers have discovered, is that each time you retrieve a memory you forget or add small things to it, and the next time you recall the information, you'll remember what you remembered.
"Our memories aren’t like a photograph," says lead study author Donna Bridge. "We mix up details, we forget things. We’re likely to remember this incorrect information just as much as we are the correct (memory)."
August 17th, 2012
09:26 AM ET
A group of 80-year-olds is making scientific waves because of an uncanny ability to age gracefully, from a cognitive standpoint. The moniker they've been given by scientists is "SuperAgers," because as they age, their brains seem immune to typical declines in thinking and memory.
"We know that as we age, our cognitive skills decline, and there's also a change in the amount of brain matter," said Emily Rogalski, assistant research professor at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. "Then there are these people over 80 who seem particularly sharp and somehow resist changes in memory when they age."
That resistance to memory changes means identifying what makes someone a "SuperAger" is important because of the insight their brains could provide for their cognitive opposites, those who suffer with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
August 9th, 2012
10:15 AM ET
Just one week of intensive speech therapy can reduce stuttering and produce speech changes, indicating reorganization in brain areas associated with stuttering, a new Chinese study shows - literally, using brain imaging.
However, the Stuttering Foundation cautioned against the suggestion there is a “quick fix” for stuttering.
“It’s important that the public understands that suggesting that one week of therapy can reorganize the brain is not right,” cautioned Jane Fraser, president of the foundation.
“... A week of therapy can make changes but the key is having it last, and to us it won’t have any value unless we can see results three months later,” she said. "What's exciting is that it gets out to the public that when you work on this with therapy, there really are changes to the brain.”
July 16th, 2012
07:45 AM ET
It’s well-known that exercising to maintain a healthy heart also helps create a healthy mind. But several new studies suggest that when it comes to preventing dementia, not all forms of exercise are created equal.
Studies presented at this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference found that resistance training was particularly beneficial for improving the cognitive abilities of older adults.
While the studies were small, all including 150 participants or less, they did seemed to indicate that resistance training – such as weight lifting or using resistance bands – could possibly be an intervention for dementia in older adults.
July 2nd, 2012
04:47 PM ET
A small subset of suicide attempts may be linked to an infection that starts in the litter box. A new study suggests an association between Toxoplasma gondii and suicide attempts among women.
Interesting finding, to be sure, but how does one even begin to test a theory like this? Why in the world would anyone posit that kitty litter could be related to suicide attempts?
As it turns out, about one-third of the population is walking around right now with latent toxoplasma infection. Most people will never know they have it - and most will not attempt suicide as a result of it. But the presence of T. gondii among women who attempted suicide raises interesting questions.
Those questions led senior study author, Dr. Teodor Postolache, to find out more. Postolache said he was at first puzzled by studies suggesting low-grade activity in the immune systems of suicide victims.
July 2nd, 2012
07:35 AM ET
Arthrogryposis has presented many challenges to Alyssa Jadyn Hagstrom. At just 8 years old, the condition has left her with no use of her legs and arms, and limited use of her fingers.
Alyssa is the subject of photographer Jennifer Kaczmarek’s exhibition called “Love for Alyssa,” which aims to use photography, video and an online blog to raise funds for Alyssa’s and others’ medical needs. The project has put a spotlight on the little-known condition.
Arthrogryposis causes limited range of motion in children’s joints and affects one in 3,000 infants, according to Donald Bae, an orthopedic surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital.
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.