Is Chocolate Good for the Brain?

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It’s World Chocolate Day, and what better way to justify indulging in the sweet treat than by reading about its potential health benefits.

A number of studies have pointed to the possible health benefits of flavanols, naturally occurring compounds found in dark chocolate and cocoa that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. In 2017, Frontiers in Nutrition published a review of the ways they may benefit human brain function, which is also summarized by Harvard Health Publishing in one of their blogs:

  • Short-term consumption may be helpful. For example, a 2011 study of young adults found that two hours after consuming dark chocolate (with high flavanol content), memory and reaction time were better than among those consuming white chocolate (with low flavanol content). However, other similar studies showed no benefit.

  • Long-term consumption may be helpful. One 2014 study found that among adults ages 50 to 69, those taking a cocoa supplement with high flavanol content for three months had better performance on tests of memory than those assigned to take a low-flavanol cocoa supplement.

  • Several studies demonstrated evidence of improved brain blood flow, oxygen levels, or nerve function as measured by imaging tests or tests of electrical activity in the brain after the consumption of cocoa drinks. But because these changes were not routinely associated with improved performance on cognitive tasks, it’s hard to connect the results directly to better brain function.

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Public Event: Managing Neuropsychiatric Symptoms in Neurodegenerative Disease

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Neuropsychiatric symptoms such as agitation, aggression and psychosis are frequently found in patients with neurodegenerative disorders. These symptoms increase the already significant burden of neurodegenerative diseases and complicate diagnosis and disease management, yet effective diagnostics and treatments are lacking.

Towards the goal of reducing this burden, this symposium will review state-of-the-art methods in the diagnosis and behavioral and pharmaceutical management of neuropsychiatric symptoms across a spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases. Speakers will address the challenges of defining neuropsychiatric symptoms in the context of neurodegenerative diseases, present findings regarding emerging diagnostic biomarkers and novel therapies, and discuss current estimates of associated societal and economic costs. A closing panel discussion will identify strategies to reduce these costs for patients, caregivers, and society.

Call for Abstracts

Abstract submissions are invited for a poster session. For complete submission instructions, please visit this online portal. The deadline for abstract submission is Friday, April 27, 2018.

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Missouri Student Takes Top Prize at USA Brain Bee

The winners of the USA National Brain Bee Championship were announced after taking place in Baltimore, Maryland, during last week’s Brain Awareness Week. Akhil Kondepudi from St. Louis, Missouri, took home the first-place prize at the annual, three-day competition, held this year from March 16 to 18. Competition was fierce as the 54 participants each placed first in their respective regional Brain Bee competitions, held across the country. (We covered the New York City Regional Brain Bee back in February.)

NBB 2018 Photo of Founder Myslinski with Champion
Akhil Kondepudi with International Brain Bee Founder Norbert Myslinski

The national competition tests high school students on a range of topics covering all aspects of neuroscience, including intelligence, emotions, memory, sleep, neurodegenerative diseases, schizophrenia, addictions, and the senses. The competition involved a neuroanatomy laboratory practical exam with real human brains, patient diagnosis with patient actors, neurohistology, brain MRI imaging identification, and Q&A.

In addition to a monetary prize, Kondepudi was awarded an eight-week internship in a neuroscience lab and will represent the US at the World Brain Bee Championship this July in Berlin. A donation was also given to the Disabled American Veterans organization. Second-place went to Hemanth Asirvatham of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and third-place was awarded to Sehej Bindra of Piscataway, New Jersey. This is the 11th consecutive year for the National Brain Bee Championship. Congratulations to all participants!

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2018 Brain Awareness Impact Stories

BAW-generalToday is the first day of Brain Awareness Week and we couldn’t be more thrilled with our partners’ commitment to educating the public about the importance of brain research in our daily lives.

Earlier this year, we spotlighted three exceptional partners on our blog, and now the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) is doing something similar. This week, they’ll feature “Brain Awareness Impact Stories” from their Global Advocacy Initiative seed grant awardees “who have made important impacts in their local communities.”

Visit their website or follow them on Facebook to read these compelling stories, which begin in the state of Veracruz, Mexico. This piece highlights the efforts of neurophysiologist Luis Beltran-Parrazal to address a local public health crisis as the result of a hereditary disease of the central nervous system, spinocerebellar ataxia type 7.

Free Public Briefing on Neurotechnology and the Military

In the Washington, DC area on Friday lunchtime? Come learn about cutting-edge, brain-related technologies that are particularly relevant to members of the military and their families.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Come to a free public luncheon briefing, “Neurotechnology and the Military,” hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), through the support of the Dana Foundation, and in conjunction with the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus.

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