Posts tagged with "Medical Xpress"

Beyond words: Why words become harder to remember as we get older

September 14, 2021

As we age, we find it increasingly difficult to have the right words ready at the right moment—even though our vocabulary actually grows continuously over the course of our lives. Now we know a little bit more about the reasons why, Medical Xpress reports.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the University of Leipzig—both, in Germany—believe that they have identified the networks in the brain that change our communication over time, making it less efficient.

The researchers investigated these connections with the help of two groups—younger study participants between the ages of 20 and 35 and older ones between the ages of 60 and 70. Both groups were asked to name words from certain categories—among them, animals, metals, or vehicles– while they were being scanned using MRI technology.

It became clear that both age groups were good at finding words. However, the younger ones were somewhat faster. The reason for this could be the different brain activities. For one thing, not only were the language areas themselves more active in the younger participants; they also showed a more intensive exchange within two decisive networks:

The reverse was true for older people. Here, executive areas showed stronger activity, indicating that the task was more difficult for these individuals overall. In addition, the exchange within the crucial networks was less effective than in the younger people. The older group was most likely to benefit from inter-network exchange, but this is associated with losses.

“Communication within neuronal networks is more efficient and thus faster than between them,” explains Sandra Martin, Ph.D. student at MPI CBS and first author of the underlying study.

Why these activity patterns shift with age has not yet been fully explained. One theory, says Martin, is that as people age, they rely more on the linguistic knowledge they have, so exchanges between networks come into focus, while younger people rely more on their fast-working memory and cognitive control processes. “On the structural level, the loss of grey matter in the brain could also play a role, which is compensated for by the exchange between networks,” says Martin.

The research was published in Cerebral Cortex.

Research contact: @xpress_medical

Study: Vitamin D deficiency found in over 80% of seriously ill COVID-19 patients

October 30, 2020

Researchers recently discovered that—out of 216 patients being treated at the Hospital Universitario Marqués de Valdecilla in Spain for COVID-19—fully 80% had a vitamin D deficiency, The Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) reports.

Vitamin D is described by Medical Xpress as a hormone the produced by the kidneys that controls blood calcium concentration and impacts the immune system—especially against infections.

Men had lower levels of vitamin D than women and COVID-19 patients with lower levels of vitamin D had increased serum levels of inflammatory markers—such as ferritin, a blood protein containing iron; and D-dimer, a protein fragment made when a blood clot dissolves in the body.

The new study, “Vitamin D Status in Hospitalized Patients with SARS-Cov-2 Infection,” was announced on October 27 and published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Co-author José L. Hernández, Ph.D., of the University of Cantabria in Santander, Spain said, “One approach is to identify and treat vitamin D deficiency—especially in high-risk individuals, such as the elderly, patients with comorbidities; and nursing home residents, who are the main target population for the COVID-19,”

He further noted, “Vitamin D treatment should be recommended in COVID-19 patients with low levels of vitamin D circulating in the blood since this approach might have beneficial effects in both the musculoskeletal and the immune system.”

Research contact: @ajc

Going long: Study finds both Biden, Trump likely to be ‘super-agers’

September 29, 2020

Both 2020 presidential candidates—former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, and President Donald Trump, 74—are likely to maintain their health and cognitive functions beyond the end of the next presidential term, according to findings of a recent study published in the Journal on Active Aging, University of Illinois Chicago, Medical Xpress reports.

Indeed, longevity researcher S. Jay Olshansky and his colleagues have concluded that chronological age and fitness should not be factors in the 2020 election.

“It is our conclusion that chronological age is not a relevant factor for either candidate running for President of the United States,” the authors write. “Both candidates face a lower than average risk of experiencing significant health or cognitive functioning challenges during the next four years.”

To evaluate each candidate’s likelihood of surviving a four-year term in office, the researchers scientifically evaluated the candidates’ health status based on publicly available medical records and confirmed publicly available personal information. The medical records of each candidate were independently evaluated by three medical doctors with experience in aging and a team of research scientists with expertise in epidemiology, public health, survival analysis, and statistics.

This is the first time, Medical Xpress reports, that the medical records and personal attributes of presidential candidates have been scientifically evaluated by physicians and scientists in the field of aging.

The key findings of the study:

“We see chronological age as a topic of discussion time and again during elections, even though scientific and medical evidence tells us that biological age is far more important,” said Olshansky, professor of epidemiology and biostatics at the UIC School of Public Health.

Biological age is reflective of how rapidly a body is growing old—this occurs at different rates, Olshansky said. “Biological age is influenced by genetics and behavioral risk factors. Some people can be biologically old at age 50 while others can be biologically young at age 80.”

In prior research, Olshansky conducted the first scientific evaluation of presidential longevity; he sought to understand if being president causes an individual to age more rapidly and die sooner than expected. In that study, Olshansky concluded that most U.S. presidents actually live beyond the average life expectancy.

Research contact: @xpress_medical

‘Zaftig’ patients are more likely to survive a stroke

March 7, 2019

There is finally some good news for the 40% of Americans who are considered to be overweight. Having some extra body fat may be linked to an increased chance of surviving a stroke, based on preliminary findings of a UCLA study, Medical Xpress reports.

Released on March 4, the research data is scheduled to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 71st Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, May 4 to 10.

Medical experts call this advantage “the obesity paradox,” according to Medical Xpress. Indeed, healthcare professionals believe that obesity may be protective for some people, such as the aged or those with certain chronic diseases.

“It was first noticed that carrying extra weight may play a role in survival for people who had suffered from kidney or heart disease, so we felt the need to investigate whether it also was tied to improved stroke survival,” said study author Zuolu Liu, MD, of UCLA and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study looked at 1,033 people at an average age of 71 who had suffered an acute ischemic stroke, which is a stroke that cuts off blood supply to part of the brain.

Researchers calculated participants’ body mass index (BMI—a measure of a person’s body size based on their height and weight. People are considered overweight if they have a BMI of 25 to 29; and obese, with a BMI above 29. The average BMI for the participants was 27.5.

Participants then were divided into five categories, based on their BMI: underweight, normal, overweight, obese, and severely obese.

Researchers then monitored patients for three months following their strokes, measuring their levels of disability.

The study found that people who were severely obese were 62% less likely to die than people of normal weight. People who were obese were 46% less likely to die after a stroke and those who were overweight were 15% less likely to die. Conversely, people who were underweight were 67%  more likely to die after a stroke than people of normal weight. (These results were calculated after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect survival rates, such as having high blood pressure, having high cholesterol, or habitually smoking.)

Of the 95 people who were severely obese, 11 died during the study, compared to 19 of the 192 people who were obese, 58 of the 395 people who were overweight, 55 of the 327 people who were normal weight, and six of the 24 people who were underweight.

“One possible explanation is that people who are overweight or obese may have a nutritional reserve that may help them survive during prolonged illness,” stated Liu. “More research is needed to investigate the relationship between body mass index and stroke.”

The researcher cautioned that one limitation of the study was that all participants were from southern California, which means results may not be the same for other populations. However, the racial/ethnic distribution of the population in this study mirrors that of the national population.

Research contact: @AANMember