Archive for November, 2010

Brain-computer interfaces

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Okay, this is really cool:

Just one of the examples of what we’re beginning to be able to do by combining the fairly familiar phenomenon of EEG (the brain’s electrical activity detectable from the scalp) with the capacity of modern computers. And, of course, good ol’ human ingenuity!

New study: Walking just a few blocks a day prevents brain shrinkage and cognitive decline in the elderly

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

A study was published a couple of weeks ago in the journal Neurology that showed clear effects of regular, light exercise on the way the brain ages. A group of healthy participants, on average 78 years old, was identified in 1988-1989, and their cognitive functioning was assessed. They were also asked a variety of questions related to lifestyle. Nine years later, they all had MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of their brains. Their cognitive functions were re-tested, and then re-tested again three to four years after that.

The study found that the more walking the participants were doing at the beginning of the study, the greater their brain volume at the time of the MRI scan. That is, the walkers had less loss of brain volume over time. (Loss of gray matter is a typical observation with advancing age.)  These same participants were less likely to have developed Alzheimer’s or other dementias by the end of the study than were those who exercised less.

Interestingly, these relationships held only for those who walked from six to nine miles a week, suggesting that it’s important to be out there for a good chunk of time.  But we’re talking walking here, not extreme sports! So, you grandmas and grandpas (and younger people too), get out there and do a mile or so a day. Not only will you be sharper and more focused this year, but your brain will be bigger and more effective years down the road, and you’ll keep your cognitive edge well into old age!