Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Being a greedy guts can make you more stupid

Neuroscientists in Germany have found that not only does getting fat age your brain quicker but also affects your problem solving and speed of thinking.

And it’s slightly worse for women than men and for people with paunches, rather than for people who put on weight elsewhere on their bodies e.g. their hips.

The findings, by Veronica Witte and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Human and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, might help to explain why overweight and obese people face a greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia in later life.

They brain-scanned almost 3,000 adults and got them to complete a series of cognitive tests. They found that being overweight seemed to alter the structure of the brain. Basically people with a higher BMI score or a broader waist to to hips comparison had less brain tissue and performed worse in quick-thinking tests.

They can’t prove that obesity changes the brain as they didn’t do a study over a long period and it could be that as people lose white matter in their brains they also lose some control functions and over-eat.

However the scientists believe that “low grade” inflammation that stems from fat cells may gradually eat away sensitive parts of the brain.

Dementia is now the most common cause of death in Britain and effects almost a million people.

Do you need a better reason to eat healthily and exercise?

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Want to stay sharp? Do voluntary work

grandma_cane_fencing_500_wht_192A study of over 9,000 people over 40 years has found that volunteering keeps your thinking skills sharp.

Doesn’t matter whether it’s Neighbourhood watch, your local political party, or a community group.  Encouraging people to get active helps protect their brains against dementia.

The professor at Southampton University who led the study said “The implication is that if people continue to engage socially throughout life, maintaining related behaviours hat require cognitive skills such as memory, attention, and control, there may be some protection from cognitive decline”

Public health interventions aimed at promoting cognitive health could include encouraging civic engagement and providing opportunities for it she said.

There is no cure for dementia so preventing it is important as the population ages.

A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society said “there is strong evidence that exercise can help keep our brains healthy throughout our lives but there is less research into the impact of socialising. 

This large and interesting study suggests that being sociable, for example by joining a community group, can help our kept our brains sharp in middle age. However it did not examine whether socialising can actually affect our risk of developing dementia

Current evidence suggests that a healthy diet and exercise can reduce the risk of memory problems. This study suggest that socialising could be added to that list. Years ago I remember reading about an experiment in care homes where instead of having the hairs arranged along the walls they put them into groups. This encouraged the patients to interact and they had a better quality of ife. So this idea is not new.

The people in this study were tested for their cognitive skills at age 11 and followed for 40 years. Only 14% were volunteering at age 30 but this proportion rose to 25% by age 50 when their skills were re-tested.

A fifth of the difference in people’s cognitive skills could be attributed to volunteering plus other factors such as sport, education and just being a woman – all thought to protect the brain.

So if you’ve nothing better to do go out and volunteer for something, anything to get you out of the house and mixing with people.


Do vampires know something we don’t?

ulearn2bu

mouth_vamp_teeth_1600_clr_17745Injecting/transfusing yourself with the blood of virgins (Kim Jong II and Pope Innocent VIII – well maybe not so innocent as blood donors all died), bathing in it (Countess Bathory – or Ingrid Pitt if you’re a Hammer film fan) or just taking a bloody bite (Dracula and a long line of vampires since) may seem other-worldly but scientists now believe that they may have been onto something.

Scientists in California are testing an Alzheimer’s treatment that involves injecting blood plasma from young people in the hope it will reduce brain ageing.

Saul Vileda’s experiments with mice of different ages showed that when you mix their blood. Giving blood from older mice to younger mice accelerated cognitive decline. 

He then found that when he injected older mice with young blood it changed the brain circuitry in the older mice creating new synaptic connections. Plasticity also returned relating to learning and memory-related genes.

He…

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Dementia update 2016

ulearn2bu

elderly_man_holding_a_custom_text_sign_12871The government has announced a pilot programme to screen 40-year olds for dementia. The government wants to make Britain “the best place in the world to live with dementia“.

There are about 850,000 in the UK who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other severe neurodegenerative problems (approx 70% have Alzheimer’s and 20% vascular dementia).

Only those over 65 have a mid-life MoT at present. If the pilot is a success it will be extended to all GPs allowing them to suggest ways that people can cope with it better.

Exercising more, controlling weight and blood pressure, and eating better, are a few ways that could help.

Another part of the project is to enlist people in research to allow doctors to better understand and treat the condition.

Dementia can be frightening and the Alzheimer’s Society says  more than 9 out of 10 people think hospitals are frightening places…

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