U.S Marines Turn to Meditation Training to Relieve Extreme Stress among Soldiers

Through a dozen years of war, the U.S. military’s operational tempo (OPTEMPO) has taken a horrendous toll on both equipment and personnel, with the Marine Corps, arguably taking the brunt of the combat. As the Pentagon’s smallest force, Marine units deployed frequently to Iraq and continue to deploy too often to Afghanistan.

Equipment can be replaced but the Corps’ most valuable asset – Continue reading

Second Thoughts about Ginko Biloba

When looking closely at ginkgo biloba and acetyl-L- carnitine for use against Alzheimer’s disease, I’ve found a mixed bag. It’s best to become informed before investing hope in supplements.

Acetyl-L-carnitine is an amino acid that occurs naturally. In animal studies, it’s been found to increase the energy production in nerve cells, protect the nerve cells from toxins, maintain the number of receptors on nerve cells, and increase Continue reading

Proof That Vitamins Make You Smarter

A new study has found that elderly people with higher levels of several vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids were, overall, smarter. They did better on mental acuity tests and actually had less of the brain shrinkage typical of Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, junk food led to the opposite result. Score another one for nutrition.

This was the first specific measure of a wide range of nutrients in the blood and how they corresponded to mental health and cognitive function. It uncovered positive effects of high levels of vitamins B, C, D, E and the healthy oils most commonly found in fish. The study was published last week in “Neurology.”

The study included 104 people (average age of 87) who were not at risk for memory problems or poor mental acuity. Continue reading

When Gluten is a Menace

Can a piece of bread destroy your brain? Believe it or not, it’s possible if you have the condition called celiac. For some celiac sufferers, eating foods like bread that contain gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye) causes an autoimmune reaction that destroys nerve tissue and brain cells. The main defense against this destruction: eating a gluten-free diet.

Deteriorating Memory

In 2007, I was on the brink of full-blown dementia, suffering very serious (and seemingly inexplicable) cognitive and memory difficulties. After taking part in a conversation in the morning, I would have no memory of it by the afternoon. Driving became increasingly difficult. Writing and editing? Fuhgeddaboutit. And when my son interrupted me one evening to ask why I was telling him a story I had just told him two minutes before (and which I had no memory of doing), I knew I was in serious trouble.

I couldn’t understand why a brain fog had enveloped me so unrelentingly.

Now, about a year before, without paying it too much attention, I had read about a study at the Mayo Clinic that found that folks with celiac who were suffering cognitive decline improved on a gluten-free diet. Continue reading

Healthy Diet Improves Cognitive Impairment

Individuals who eat plenty of fresh produce, whole grains and lean meat often experience significant physical health benefits when compared to people who favor diets high in fat and carbohydrates.

Now, researchers at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System have suggested that a diet that is good for the heart and waistline may also have positive benefits for the mind.

In a four-week trial, the scientists found that a diet that was low in saturated fats and simple carbohydrates resulted in reduced levels of biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease as well as lowered cholesterol. Additionally, a healthy diet was shown to improve memory test scores for both normal participants and those experiencing mild cognitive impairment.

“The therapeutic effects of  Continue reading

Robots Are Coming to the ER

A group of computer engineers at Vanderbilt University is convinced that the basic technology is now available to create robot assistants that can perform effectively in the often-chaotic environment of the emergency room. The specialists in emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are enthusiastic about the potential advantages. So, the two groups have formed an interdisciplinary team to explore the use of robotics in this critical and challenging setting.

Team member Mitch Wilkes, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, presented an overview of the group’s thinking on Monday, Dec. 6, in a paper titled, “Heterogeneous Artificial Agents for Triage Nurse Assistance,” at the Humanoids 2010 conference held in Nashville.

The paper proposes a system of cognitive robots  Continue reading

Light Therapy Could Brighten the Outlook for Depressed Seniors

One in 20 people suffer from clinical depression in this country, and the rate is significantly higher among seniors. It’s higher still among senior women (women are twice as likely to be depressed as men). When you include the widespread prevalence of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) this time of year, it’s clear there’s big public health problem out there. New research findings in the Netherlands show that bright light therapy (BLT) may be part of the answer. Call it a lightbulb moment in the treatment of depression.

The details: The study of depression and light therapy involved 89 people aged 60 and over. Half received three weeks of one-hour-a-day BLT. For comparison, the others were “treated” with a pale, not therapeutically significant light for the same duration. Treatment sessions occurred in the early morning each day. At the end of three weeks, those receiving BLT experienced significant improvements in mood, sleep quality,  Continue reading