A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found people with a high family risk of developing depression had less matter on the right side of their brains. The finding was similar to that found in brains with Alzheimer’s disease according to the researchers.
Brain scans revealed a 28% thinning in the right cortex in people who had a family history of depression compared with people who did not. Findings were based on scans of 131 people aged 6 to 54 with and without a family history of depression.
The thinning on the right side of the brain was only related to a family predisposition to depression. People who were actually depressed also had thinning on the left side of the cortex.
The authors suggest that having a thinner cortex may increase the risk of depression by disrupting a person’s ability to decode and recall social and emotional cues from other people. Subjects who had a thinner right cortex did less well on tests of memory and attention.
Findings suggest that a thinning right cortex relates to a predisposition to depression and to cognitive impairment.
You probably don’t think about a diary as evidence for how healthy your brain might be. This is especially true if the diary is kept when one is in his or her teens. Interestingly, however, it turns out that the type of writing we do in our teens or early life may actually predict neuropathologic markers in our brains many decades later!
The Nun Study (see David Snowden) reported that young women prior to taking their vows to become nuns kept diaries. The content of these diaries were rated for grammar complexity and idea density defined as the number of ideas in each sentence. Results indicated that the number of ideas in each sentence at the age of 22 or so correlated with the number of neurofibrillary tangles (marker of Alzheimer’s disease) in the brain at autopsy some 50 or 60 years later.
This is another study in a long line of research indicating early life environments are critical to shaping our brains for health well into late life
60 Minutes ran a segment about the health benefits of red wine, specifically the apparent powers of resveratrol, a polyphenol that is found in the skin of grapes and is thought to prevent illness and promote longevity (the Brain Fitness Blog reported on this a few months ago). Resveratrol is said to have a role in preventing clots and is believed to inhibit the production of LDL cholesterol. The 60 Minutes episode highlighted the work of Dr. Christoph Westphal and Harvard biochemist David Sinclair, whose research suggests that resveratrol can delay the aging process and prevent many gerontological diseases. A few years ago, scientists reported that resveratrol may discourage the onset of one such illness, Alzheimer’s. It is also claimed that this antioxidant can boost stamina, reduce lung inflammation stemming from chronic pulmonary disease, and help stave off cancer. Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, also say that they’ve isolated the chemical and given it to mice. The mice given high doses of Resveratrol were able to run farther, didn’t gain as much weight, and lived 20% longer.
Wine Consumption and Health
A recent report indicates aspirin and non-steroidal antinflammatory drugs seem to have the positive and perhaps unexpected benefit, of cutting a person’s risk of developing AD.
Researchers at John’s Hopkins reviewed data from 13,499 cases to measure the protective effect from these commonly used drugs on AD risk. Over the course of the studies 820 people developed AD. However, those who used the non-steroidal drugs including aspirin, Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and other brands) and Naproxen together had a 23% lower risk for AD than those who did not use such medications.
Researchers stated that while the different types of medications have different properties, they seemed to deliver the same level of protection. This study and others in the past underscore the probable contribution of an inflammatory process related to AD.
This study and the others do not suggest everyone should start taking these medications, but it might be a good topic to discuss with your doctor.
German scientists have found success in reversing the plaque buildup in brains of mice. The plaque deposits are one of the hallmark features of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and this finding may lead to viable treatments for humans.
The compound reportedly effectively blocks an enzyme responsible for development of the plaque. The compound attaches itself at the precise site on the cell wall where the toxic action occurs.
When injected directly into the brains of mice, scientists indicate the compound works well. The next step is to determine if the compound can cross the blood brain barrier, the protective shield around the brain. Animal tests have begun to determine if medicines given by mouth or injection have the high rate of efficacy as direct injection into the brain where there was a 50% reduction in plaque formation within four hours. Scientists believe that if the testing on animals goes well a human version could be available in five to ten years.