Can a higher education do more than get you a better salary? Results of a new study published in Neurology suggests that a higher education may help provide some cognitive protection from traumatic brain injury. The study found people with a college education were four times more likely to recover and return to work or school with no disability compared to those who did not finish high school. Although the exact mechanism is unknown, a few theories suggest that the brain can develop better coping strategies when knowledge expands with higher education. What are some of your favorite strategies in exercising your brain?
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As a growing number of states legalize marijuana for recreational and medicinal use, the negative effects are beginning to surface in research. A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience scanned the brains of forty young adults from Boston University who smoked marijuana. Results of the brain scans revealed that among those who smoked more, a portion of their brain was structurally altered; the part that is involved with decision making, motivation, and emotional behavior. It is important that results of this small study cannot be generalized, however, it serves as a foundation for further research on marijuana smoking and potentially permanent cognitive abnormalities. How will the findings of this study influence the acceptance of recreational versus medical marijuana? What recommendations would you give to your patient seeking marijuana?
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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is seen more in boys than girls. Research from the American Journal of Human Genetics suggests more severe DNA errors must occur in girls to cause neurodevelopmental conditions. Girls with ASD had a greater number of harmful genetic mutations compared to males, but females tolerated a higher threshold of bad mutations before developing ASD. Although more research is needed to support these findings, current data suggests resilience in brain development is higher in females. A likely explanation for this may be the fact that since females have two X chromosomes rather than one in males, the other X chromosome may compensate for damage in the other. What are your thoughts about this research? What typical recommendations do you provide to patients with ASD/ADHD?
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The Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study recently published looked at the association between omega-3 fatty acids and brain aging in 1,111 postmenopausal women who were on average 70 years old. The researchers measured the amounts of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the women’s red blood cells at the beginning of the study and followed them for eight years. It turned out that women with the highest levels of EPA and DHA had a greater brain volume and hippocampus compared to women who had the lowest fatty acid levels. This suggests that EPA and DHA may protect the brain from shrinkage with age. What are your thoughts about this study? How often do patients ask you about using omega-3 fatty acids for treatment or prevention of cognitive disorders?
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With previous studies suggesting that copper may protect the brain, controversy has occurred with a recently published study. This study found that copper can actually cause the accumulation of toxic proteins, amyloid beta, which forms the plaques linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The animal study discovered that it was harder for the brain to get rid of the protein with increased ingestion of copper metal via tap water. Researches have suggested that people treat these results with caution and to not cut copper out of their diet. Copper can be found in tap water, red meat, shellfish as well as fruit and vegetables, which are all still very vital for a healthy body. What are your thoughts about these findings?
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A new study conducted in 60 elderly people found; two cups of cocoa a day improves blood flow to the brain. Improved blood flow to the brain is associated with better memory function. Researchers believe that it is flavanol in the cocoa that plays a big role in vascular health. In this study, one group received high-flavanol cocoa and another low-flavanol cocoa. There was no difference found between the two groups. However, 88% of the people who had impaired blood flow at the beginning of the study saw improvements in blood flow and some cognitive tests. Moreover, 37% of the people with normal blood flow at the beginning of the study saw an improvement as well. Researchers concluded that it might be another component in cocoa that is associated with improved blood flow, or it could be that only small amount of flavanol was needed. One of the limitations of this study was that there was no control group to assess the effects of drinking no cocoa at all. What are your favorite foods with healing properties?
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