Video Games and the Brain: Action, Strategy, and Pac-Man

Playing some video games can cause serious harm, while others might improve or restore skills, suggested three panelists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science this week.

“Not all games are created equal,” said Chandramallika Basak, a researcher at the University of Texas at Dallas. She and her colleagues study how memory and other skills change across our lifespan; part of that includes research investigating brain and cognitive effects of different games, especially as people get older.

Not everything in your brain declines with age (crystallized memory stays strong), but she’s looking for activities that could strengthen the ones that do, especially working memory (including how fast you can update current information) and task-switching (how fast you can switch when multitasking). Assuming there is a “functional threshold” for success at daily life, she wonders, “Can we keep this declining cognitive abilities stable for a few more years” above this threshold. “If I’m going to live to 90, I’d rather get it [dementia] at 89” as opposed to earlier, she said.

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AAAS’s Deborah Runkle moderates the Q&A session with, from left, Craig Anderson, Hilarie Cash, and Chandramallika Basak.

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Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts

In the United States, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease every minute; around the world, it’s every four seconds. “It is the biggest epidemic we have in this country,” says Harvard University’s Rudolph Tanzi, “I’m shocked that people aren’t panicked about what this disease is going to do to the country or to their families.”

This Wednesday (January 25) at 10 pm ET, PBS is premiering “Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts,” an urgent wake-up call about the national threat posed by the disease. The documentary includes interviews with doctors, caregivers, and longtime researchers of the disease, such as Dana Alliance member Tanzi.

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Celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month with Brain Healthy Steps

There are approximately 46 million people living with dementia, costing $818 billion worldwide. By 2050, this number is estimated to rise to over 131 million people, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). With so many people living to be older, dementia is becoming one of the world’s most urgent healthcare issues.

This September marks the fifth annual World’s Alzheimer’s Month, with people around the world hosting events to raise awareness. The theme for 2016 is “Remember Me,” with people sharing memories on social media using the hashtags #RememberMe and #WAM2016. Alzheimer’s disease, along with vascular dementia, is one of the most common forms of dementia.

Recently released in honor of World’s Alzheimer’s Month is ADI’s annual Alzheimer Report. This year’s report emphasizes the importance of transferring responsibilities to primary care services from more specialized services, such as geriatrics, and psychiatrists. “As the numbers of people affected and the demand for services increase, it is unlikely that full coverage of dementia healthcare services can be attained or afforded using the current specialist care model,” the report states.

With all this worrisome news about the rise in dementia, the most important thing we can do is lead a brain-healthy lifestyle. Small changes can significantly delay the onset of dementia, reducing costs and strain on our health care system, and more importantly increasing quality of life for seniors. The Dana Foundation has a new set of four steps, based on research by the Institute of Medicine, to help keep the brain functioning into old age:

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May 25th is National Senior Health and Fitness Day!

Senior Health & Fitness

Image credit: Shutterstock

Today seniors around the country are getting active to celebrate the 23rd National Senior Health and Fitness Day. Exercise is one of the best ways to improve brain health at every stage of life, but is especially important for seniors as a way to reduce the risk for common age-related health problems such as stroke, heart attack, depression, high blood sugar, Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive aging.

A part of Older Americans Month and National Fitness and Sports Month, Senior Health and Fitness Day is a celebration of older Americans’ commitment to an active lifestyle. This year’s theme is “Improve Your Health for a Better Self,” and over 100,000 seniors at more than 1,000 locations across the country will participate in events ranging from health fairs to flash mobs.

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Hundreds Attend Successful Aging & Your Brain Event

The Dana Alliance’s Successful Aging & Your Brain  program attracted more than 700 seniors at the Up With Aging brain health expo, organized in partnership with the Manhattan Borough President, Gale A. Brewer. The event was held at The City University of New York (CUNY) graduate center to celebrate the final day of Brain Awareness Week 2016 and learn how to improve brain health.

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B. Smith (left) and Dan Gasby (right)

Trainer Linda Meyer, Ed.D., CPT, started the program by getting the audience up and moving with a short exercise routine, including dance moves and brain teasers. Next, Dan Gasby, husband of 66-year-old model and celebrity restaurateur Barbara Smith (B. Smith), personalized the importance of brain health by speaking about his wife’s early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. “Many people decide to run away from what’s going on, we decided we’re going to run right at it; we’re going to fight it,” he said.

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