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How even our brains get 'slacker' as we age

Losing the youthful firmness and elasticity in our skin is one of the first outward signs of aging. Now it seems it's not just our skin that starts to sag -- but our brains too.

New research investigated the way the human brain folds and how this 'cortical folding' changes with age.

Linking the change in brain folding to the tension on the cerebral cortex -- the outer layer of neural tissue in our brains -- the team found that as we age, the tension on the cortex appears to decrease. This effect was more pronounced in individuals with Alzheimer's disease.

Publishing their findings, the team say this new research sheds light on the underlying mechanisms which affect brain folding and could be used in the future to help diagnose brain diseases.

Lead author Dr Yujiang Wang, , explains, "One of the key features of a mammalian brain is the grooves and folds all over the surface -- a bit like a walnut -- but until now no-one has been able to measure this folding in a consistent way.

"By mapping the brain folding of over 1,000 people, we have shown that our brains fold according to a simple universal law. We also show that a parameter of the law, which is interpreted as the tension on the inside of the cortex, decreases with age.

Will you have a heart attack or stroke?

Will you have a heart attack or a stroke in your lifetime? Your odds may be worse than you think.

Men and women may have a false sense of security about their chances of having a heart attack or stroke based on the current practice of calculating a patient's risk 10 years into the future. New research shows a young or middle-aged adult who is at low risk in the short term may be at very high risk in the long term -- if he or she has just one or two risk factors such as higher than optimal cholesterol or blood pressure levels.

This is the first study to examine the lifetime risk of heart disease in men and women. It's also the first study to look at the entire adult age spectrum. The research also looked at the risk across multiple birth cohorts and found the effect of the risk factors remained consistent regardless of the decade in which a person was born.

Sport, physical activity help against depression

Depression is the most frequently diagnosed mental illness; at least every tenth person suffers from depression once in the course of their life. Depression influences physical health more than diabetes or arthritis. Treatment of depression traditionally occurs with medicines (antidepressants) and psychotherapy. But as a publication has shown, sport and physical activity partially encounter the same neurophysiological changes as antidepressants. That is why a large number of meta-analyses showed a positive effect of sport and physical activity on depression.

Hard of hearing? It's not your ears, it's your brain

"Could you repeat that?" The reason you may have to say something twice when talking to older family members not be because of their hearing. Researchers have determined that something is going on in the brains of typical older adults that causes them to struggle to follow speech amidst background noise, even when their hearing would be considered normal on a clinical assessment.

In an interdisciplinary study, researchers Samira Anderson, Jonathan Z. Simon, and Alessandro Presacco found that adults aged 61-73 with normal hearing scored significantly worse on speech understanding in noisy environments than adults aged 18-30 with normal hearing.

The researchers are all associated with the UMD's Brain and Behavior Initiative.

The study subjects underwent two different kinds of scans to measure their brains' electrical activity while they listened to people talk.

The researchers were able to see what the subjects' brains were up to when asked what someone was saying, both in a quiet environment and amidst a level of noise.

Can vitamin B supplements help stave off stroke?

New evidence suggests that taking vitamin B supplements may help reduce the risk of stroke.

"Previous studies have conflicting findings regarding the use of vitamin B supplements and stroke or heart attack," said author Xu Yuming. "Some studies have even suggested that the supplements may increase the risk of these events."

For the research, scientists analyzed 14 randomized clinical trials with a total of 54,913 participants. All of the studies compared B vitamin use with a placebo or a very low-dose B vitamin.