PART OF THE BRAIN STAYS “YOUTHFUL” INTO OLDER AGE
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Released:7-Aug-2014
Source : University of Adelaide Citations 12th International Cognitive Neuroscience Conference
Newswise — At least one part of the human brain may be able to process information the same way in older age as it does in the prime of life, according to new research conducted at the University of Adelaide.
A study compared the ability of 60 older and younger people to respond to visual and non-visual stimuli in order to measure their “spatial attention” skills.
Spatial attention is critical for many aspects of life, from driving, to walking, to picking up and using objects.
“Our studies have found that older and younger adults perform in a similar way on a range of visual and non-visual tasks that measure spatial attention,” says Dr Joanna Brooks, who conducted the study as a Visiting Research Fellow with the University of Adelaide’s School of Psychology and the School of Medicine.
“Both younger (aged 18-38 years) and older (55-95 years) adults had the same responses for spatial attention tasks involving touch, sight or sound.
“In one task, participants were asked to feel wooden objects whilst blindfolded and decide where the middle of the object was – participants’ judgements were significantly biased towards the left-hand side of the true object centre. This bias is subtle but highly consistent,” Dr Brooks says.
“When we think of ageing, we think not just of the physical aspects but also the cognitive side of it, especially when it comes to issues such as reaction time, which is typically slower among older adults. However, our research suggests that certain types of cognitive systems in the right cerebral hemisphere – like spatial attention – are ‘encapsulated’ and may be protected from ageing,” she says.
Dr Brooks, who is now a Research Fellow in Healthy Ageing based at the Australian National University, recently presented her results at the 12th International Cognitive Neuroscience Conference in Brisbane. Her project is part of an international collaboration with scientists at the University of Edinburgh and Queen Margaret University in Scotland to better understand spatial attention in the human brain.
“Our results challenge current models of cognitive ageing because they show that the right side of the brain remains dominant for spatial processing throughout the entire adult lifespan,” Dr Brooks says. “We now need to better understand how and why some areas of the brain seem to be more affected by ageing than others.”
Dr Brooks’ research could also be helpful in better understanding how diseases such as Alzheimer’s affect the brain.
5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT SLEEP DISORDERS AND COMPLEMENTARY HEALTH APPROACHES
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton National Centre for Complementary &Alternative Medicines (NCCAM)
Chronic, long-term sleep disorders affect millions of Americans each year. These disorders and the sleep deprivation they cause can interfere with work, driving, social activities, and overall quality of life, and can have serious health implications. Sleep disorders account for an estimated $16 billion in medical costs each year, plus indirect costs due to missed days of work, decreased productivity, and other factors.
People who have trouble sleeping often try various dietary supplements, relaxation therapies, or other complementary health approaches in an effort to fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and improve the overall quality of their sleep. Here are 5 things to know about what the science says about sleep disorders and complementary health approaches.
- Relaxation techniques may be helpful for insomnia. Evidence indicates that using relaxation techniques before bedtime can be helpful components of a successful strategy to improve sleep habits. Other components include maintaining a consistent sleep schedule; avoiding caffeine, alcohol, heavy meals, and strenuous exercise too close to bedtime; and sleeping in a quiet, cool, dark room.
- Melatonin supplements may be helpful for some people with insomnia or sleep problems caused by shift work or jet lag. Research on the use of melatonin for children is more limited; available research suggests some benefit in children, but those studies were small and only addressed short-term use of melatonin. The long-term safety of melatonin has not been investigated.
- Current evidence regarding other mind and body approaches such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (a type of meditation), yoga, massage therapy, and acupuncture is either too preliminary or inconsistent to draw conclusions about whether they are helpful for sleep disorders. These mind and body practices are generally considered safe for healthy people and when performed by an experienced practitioner.
- Various herbs and dietary supplements sometimes used as sleep aids, including valerian, kava, chamomile, and L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) have not been shown to be effective for insomnia, and important safety concerns have been raised about a few. For example, the use of L-tryptophan supplements has been linked to eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), a complex, potentially fatal disorder with multiple symptoms including severe muscle pain. Kava supplements have been linked to a risk of severe liver damage.
- If you are considering a complementary health approach for sleep problems, talk to your health care providers. Trouble sleeping can be an indication of a more serious condition, and some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can contribute to sleep problems. So, it’s important to discuss your sleep-related symptoms with your health care providers before trying any complementary health product or practice.
MESSAGE TO PARENTS: BABIES DON’T “START FROM SCRATCH”
From FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Released: 14-Aug-2014
Source Newsroom: University of Adelaide Citations Science
Newswise — There’s now overwhelming evidence that a child’s future health is influenced by more than just their parents’ genetic material, and that children born of unhealthy parents will already be pre-programmed for greater risk of poor health, according to University of Adelaide researchers.
In a feature paper called “Parenting from before conception” published in today’s issue of the top international journal Science, researchers at the University’s Robinson Research Institute say environmental factors prior to conception have more influence on the child’s future than previously thought.
“This really is a new frontier for reproductive and developmental research,” says corresponding author and Director of the University’s Robinson Research Institute, Professor Sarah Robertson.
“It’s only been in the last 10 years that the science community has been seriously discussing these issues, and only in the last five years that we’ve begun to understand the mechanisms of how this is happening – with much of the work conducted right here at the University of Adelaide.”
The paper concludes that parental influences on a child begin before conception, because stored environmental factors in the egg and sperm are contributing more than just genetic material to the child.
“Many things we do in the lead up to conceiving is having an impact on the future development of the child – from the age of the parents, to poor diet, obesity, smoking and many other factors, all of which influence environmental signals transmitted into the embryo,” Professor Robertson says.
“People used to think that it didn’t matter, because a child represented a new beginning, with a fresh start. The reality is, we can now say with great certainty that the child doesn’t quite start from scratch – they already carry over a legacy of factors from their parents’ experiences that can shape development in the fetus and after birth. Depending on the situation, we can give our children a burden before they’ve even started life.”
This includes a higher risk of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The likelihood of conditions like anxiety and immune dysfunction can also be affected.
Professor Robertson says current research is also showing that the fathers have a much greater role to play in this than previously thought.
Professor Robertson says this news is not all doom and gloom for would-be parents. “A few lifestyle changes by potential parents and improvements in the right direction, especially in the months leading up to conception, could have a lasting, positive benefit for the future of their child,” she says.
PARENTS, LISTEN NEXT TIME YOUR BABY BABBLES
University of Iowa study finds how parents respond to their infant’s babbling can speed the child’s language development
From FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Released: 27-Aug-2014 Source Newsroom: University of Iowa Citations Infancy
New research shows that how a parent responds to an infant’s babbling can speed up the child’s language development. Photo Illustration by Tim Schoon, University of Iowa
Newswise — Pay attention, mom and dad, especially when your infant looks at you and babbles.
Parents may not understand a baby’s prattling, but by listening and responding, they let their infants know they can communicate which leads to children forming complex sounds and using language more quickly.
That’s according to a new study by the University of Iowa and Indiana University that found how parents respond to their children’s babbling can actually shape the way infants communicate and use vocalizations.
The findings challenge the belief that human communication is innate and can’t be influenced by parental feedback. Instead, the researchers argue, parents who consciously engage with their babbling infants can accelerate their children’s vocalizing and language learning.
“It’s not that we found responsiveness matters,” says Julie Gros-Louis, assistant professor of psychology at the UI and corresponding author on the study, published in the July/August edition of the journal Infancy. “It’s how a mother responds that matters.”
Researchers observed the interactions between 12 mothers and their 8-month-old infants during free play twice a month for 30 minutes over a six-month period. They noted how the mothers responded to their child’s positive vocalizations, such as babbling and cooing, especially when it was directed toward the mother. Current research in Gros-Louis’s lab has found similar levels of responsiveness of mothers and fathers to infants’ babbling.
What researchers discovered is infants whose mothers responded to what they thought their babies were saying, showed an increase in developmentally advanced, consonant-vowel vocalizations, which means the babbling has become sophisticated enough to sound more like words. The babies also began directing more of their babbling over time toward their mothers.
On the other hand, infants whose mothers did not try as much to understand them and instead directed their infants’ attention at times to something else did not show the same rate of growth in their language and communication skills.
Gros-Louis says the difference was mothers who engaged with their infants when they babbled let their children know they could communicate. Consequently, those babies turned more often to their mothers and babbled.
“The infants were using vocalizations in a communicative way, in a sense, because they learned they are communicative,” Gros-Louis says.
In a survey a month after the study ended, mothers who were most attentive to their infants’ babbling reported their children produced more words and gestures at age 15 months.
Gros-Louis was a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana when she, Andrew King, a senior scientist in psychology, and Meredith West, a psychology professor at Indiana, conducted the mother-infant study, titled “Maternal Responsiveness and the Development of Directed Vocalizing in Social Interactions.”
“Julie is showing that social stimulation shapes at a very early age what children attend to,” says King. “And if you can show the parent can shape what an infant attends to, there is the possibility to shape what the child is sensitive to. They are learning how to learn.“
The current study builds upon previous research by King and West, published in 2003 in the journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In that study, mothers were instructed to respond positively – such as smiling or touching—each time their infants looked at them and babbled. The results found the babies learned to vocalize advanced syllable-like sounds more readily than the typical infant.
Gros-Louis and her colleagues took that research a step further by observing the interactions of mothers and infants over a longer period of time and without instructing the mothers how to respond. Thus, they added a control group—the mothers who directed their babies’ attention elsewhere versus those who actively engaged when their infants looked at them and babbled.
Once again, the results showed infants whose mothers attended more closely to their babbling vocalized more complex sounds and develop language skills sooner.
Combined, the two studies could change how people think about human communicative development. However, additional research involving more participants is needed to validate the findings, the researchers said.
“The debate here is huge,” King says.
Funding for the research came from a grant awarded to Gros-Louis from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health
In passing if any of my readers are in my address book it has been hacked. If you have had an email allegedly from me, I did not send it. I am not in the Ukraine “on holiday” and I have not been mugged at gun point thank goodness. Please do not answer this email just ditch it as it may carry a virus. I am sorry but it is beyond my control. Do not send 1900 dollars to a hotmail address. So sorry. Do these folk have nothing better to do with their time . On holiday in the Ukraine with all their trouble – that takes the biscuit. Hope you missed out on that one. Thanks for all those who rang to make sure I was not in captivity. Back tomorrow all being well. Jeanne