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It's All Coming Back to Me Now: Researchers Find Caffeine Enhances Memory

For some, it's the tradition of steeping tealeaves to brew the perfect cup of tea. For others, it's the morning shuffle to a coffee maker for a hot jolt of java. Then there are those who like their wake up with the kind of snap and a fizz usually found in a carbonated beverage.

Regardless of the routine, the consumption of caffeine is the energy boost of choice for millions to wake up or stay up. Now, however, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University have found another use for the stimulant: memory enhancer.

Michael Yassa, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins, and his team of scientists found that caffeine has a positive effect on long-term memory in humans. Their research, published by the journal Nature Neuroscience, shows that caffeine enhances certain memories at least up to 24 hours after it is consumed.

The memory center in the human brain is the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped area in the medial temporal lobe of the brain. The hippocampus is the switchbox for all short-term and long-term memories. Most research done on memory -- the effects of concussions in athletics to war-related head injuries to dementia in the aging population -- are focused on this area of the brain.

Until now, caffeine's effects on long-term memory had not been examined in detail. Of the few studies done, the general consensus was that caffeine has little or no effect on long-term memory retention.

" According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 90 percent of people worldwide consume caffeine in one form or another. In the United States, 80 percent of adults consume caffeine every day. The average adult has an intake of about 200 milligrams -- the same amount used in the Yassa study -- or roughly one strong cup of coffee or two small cups of coffee per day.

 Source : Science Daily

N.H.Khider

Dance and Virtual Reality: A Promising Treatment for Elderly Women

Virtual reality, dance and fun are not the first things that come to mind when we think of treating urinary incontinence in senior women. However, these concepts were the foundations of a promising study by Dr. Chantal Dumoulin, PhD, Canada Research Chair in Urogynaecological Health and Aging, a researcher at the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, and an associate professor in the Physiotherapy Program of the Rehabilitation School at Université de Montréal, and her master's student, Miss Valérie Elliott.

For the study, the researchers added a series of dance exercises via a video game console to a physiotherapy program for pelvic floor muscles. What were the results for the 24 participants? A greater decrease in daily urine leakage than for the usual program (improvement in effectiveness) as well as no dropouts from the program and a higher weekly participation rate (increase in compliance).

According to the researchers, fun is a recipe for success. "Compliance with the program is a key success factor: the more you practice, the more you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Our challenge was to motivate women to show up each week. We quickly learned that the dance component was the part that the women found most fun and didn't want to miss. The socialization aspect shouldn't be ignored either: they laughed a lot as they danced!" explained a delighted Chantal Dumoulin.

The dance period also served as a concrete way for women to apply pelvic floor muscle exercises that are traditionally static. "Dancing gives women confidence, as they have to move their legs quickly to keep up with the choreography in the video game while controlling their urine. They now know they can contract their pelvic floor muscles when they perform any daily activity to prevent urine leakage. These exercises are therefore more functional."

Although a lot of research already employs different aspects of virtual reality, this is the first time that it has been used to treat urinary incontinence. This successful feasibility study opens the door to a randomized clinical trial.

Source: sciencedaily.com

B.N

Vitamin D 'boosts child muscles'

Higher levels of maternal vitamin D during pregnancy have been linked to better muscle development in children, say researchers.

The study on 678 children, showed vitamin D levels in the womb were linked to grip strength at the age of four.

The team at the University of Southampton say the muscle boost could persist throughout life.

Trials are taking place to see how effective pregnancy supplements are.

Most vitamin D is made by the skin when exposed to sunlight and supplements are offered during pregnancy.

It is likely that the greater muscle strength observed at four years of age in children born to mothers with higher vitamin D levels will track into adulthood, and so potentially help to reduce the burden of illness associated with loss of muscle mass in old age”

Dr Nicholas Harvey Researcher

Some doctors have voiced about vitamin D deficiency as people become more "sun aware" and have linked it with a range of health problems.

Hold tight

The team at the University of Southampton investigated the impact of the vitamin in pregnancy.

Blood samples were taken 34 weeks into the pregnancy and the vitamin D levels were compared with how tightly their children could squeeze a device in their hand at the age of four.

The results showed that women with high levels of vitamin D in the late stages of pregnancy were more likely to have children with greater muscle strength.

Dr Nicholas Harvey told the BBC that: "There's some evidence that 'fast' muscle fibres go down in vitamin D deficiency and you get more fat in muscle.

"If there is deficiency in utero then they may end up with a lower number of numbers of these 'fast' muscle fibers."

The group in Southampton is now conducting a trial in which 1,200 expectant mothers are given higher doses of vitamin D supplements to assess the impact on both bone and muscle strength.

Dr Harvey said there may be long term benefits to increasing muscle strength.

"It peaks in young adulthood before declining in older age and low grip strength in adulthood has been associated with poor health outcomes including diabetes, falls and fractures.

"It is likely that the greater muscle strength observed at four years of age in children born to mothers with higher vitamin D levels will track into adulthood, and so potentially help to reduce the burden of illness associated with loss of muscle mass in old age."

Prof Cyrus Cooper, from the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, added: "This work should help us to design interventions aimed at optimizing body composition in childhood and later adulthood and thus improve the health of future generations

Source : BBC

N.H.Khider

How Emotions Are Mapped in the Body

Researchers found that the most common emotions trigger strong bodily sensations, and the bodily maps of these sensations were topographically different for different emotions. The sensation patterns were, however, consistent across different West European and East Asian cultures, highlighting that emotions and their corresponding bodily sensation patterns have a biological basis.

"Emotions adjust not only our mental, but also our bodily states. This way the prepare us to react swiftly to the dangers, but also to the opportunities such as pleasurable social interactions present in the environment. Awareness of the corresponding bodily changes may subsequently trigger the conscious emotional sensations, such as the feeling of happiness," tells assistant professor Lauri Nummenmaa from Aalto University.

"The findings have major implications for our understanding of the functions of emotions and their bodily basis. On the other hand, the results help us to understand different emotional disorders and provide novel tools for their diagnosis."

The research was carried out on line, and over 700 individuals from Finland, Sweden and Taiwan took part in the study. The researchers induced different emotional states in their Finnish and Taiwanese participants. Subsequently the participants were shown with pictures of human bodies on a computer, and asked to colour the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing.

Source: Science Daily

N.H.Khider

Apple-a-day call for all over-50s

If everyone over the age of 50 ate an apple a day, 8,500 deaths from heart attacks and strokes could be avoided every year ,say researchers.

Apples would give a similar boost to cardiovascular health as medicines, such as statins, yet carry none of the side-effects, the University of Oxford researchers say in the BMJ.

They base their assumptions on modelling, not direct scientific study.

Any fruit should work, but getting people to comply could be challenging.

It just shows how effective small changes in diet can be, and that both drugs and healthier living can make a real difference in preventing heart disease and stroke.”

Dr Adam Briggs Lead researcher

More than two-thirds of adults do not eat the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day, population surveys suggest.

And although nine in 10 of us do manage to eat at least one portion a day, Dr Adam Briggs and colleagues, from the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford University, say we would all benefit from eating more.

By their calculations, if adults of all ages could manage to eat an extra portion of fruit or veg a day, as many as 11,000 vascular deaths could be averted each year.

  • Energy: 35.4kcal
  • Fat: 0.09g
  • Saturated fat: 0.02g
  • Monosaturates: 0.01g
  • Polyunsaturates: 0.05g
  • Cholesterol: 0.00mg
  • Fibre: 1.39g
  • Salt: 0.00g

The Victorian mantra of "an apple a day" to keep the doctor away is particularly important for the over-50s, who are at increased risk of vascular diseases, say the researchers.

They analysed the effect on the most common causes of vascular mortality - heart attacks and strokes - of prescribing either a statin a day, which lowers cholesterol, or an apple a day to people over 50.

Assuming at least seven in every 10 complied with the advice, statin drugs could save 9,400 lives and an apple a day 8,500 lives a year, they calculate.

The data their work rests on comprises a large body of medical trials and observations involving hundreds of thousands of patients.

Dr Briggs said: "The Victorians had it about right when they came up with their brilliantly clear and simple public health advice, 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away'

"It just shows how effective small changes in diet can be, and that both drugs and healthier living can make a real difference in preventing heart disease and stroke.

"While no-one currently prescribed statins should replace them for apples, we could all benefit from simply eating more fruit."

Dr Peter Coleman, of the Stroke Association, said everyone stood to benefit from eating a balanced diet.

"Apples have long been known as a natural source of antioxidants and chemical compounds called flavanoids, all of which are good for our health and wellbeing.

"This study shows that, as part of a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, a daily apple could help to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Source : BBC

N.H.Khider