Welcome to CogniFit's blog! Get the latest news about brain training and neuroscience.

Exercising the body and the mind may prevent Alzheimer’s

Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s according to the Alzheimer’s Association. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death. However results from one of the largest randomized prevention trial to date suggest that seniors at risk for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s may help safeguard their memory and ability to think by adopting a healthier lifestyle.

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Eye and smell tests may detect Alzheimer’s onset 

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive brain condition that damages and destroys brain cells. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. One of the main issues is that current clinical diagnostic tests can only be detected in its late stages. However, 4 new studies suggest that eye and smell tests could be used for early detection of Alzheimer’s.

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99.6 percent of drug trials for Alzheimer’s disease fail

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and causes memory, thinking and behavior problems. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there is no current cure, though some symptoms are treatable. However, more than 99% of drug trials for Alzheimer’s disease during the past decade have failed, according to a study.

Scientists at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health shared an alarming message in the July 3 issue of the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy: We’re not doing enough to develop drugs to battle Alzheimer’s disease.

“We’re looking forward from 5.5 million victims [now] to around 14 million by 2050 if we don’t develop something. Yet we’re meeting this with a trickle of success in terms of drug development,” said lead author Dr. Jeffrey L. Cummings, director of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. “The dramatic message is that Alzheimer’s disease drug development is in a disastrous state and we have to change this.”

Cummings and his team surveyed data from ClinicalTrials.gov, a government website that records clinical trials, aimed to examine historical trends to try to understand why efforts to develop treatments for Alzheimer’s disease so often have failed. Between 2002 and 2012, they found 99.6% of trials of drugs aimed at preventing, curing or improving the symptoms of Alzheimer’s had failed or been discontinued.

“This is a kind of shock; we really have to reconsider this because the failure rate is unacceptably high,” said Cummings. “We’re simply not meeting the challenge. We’re going to have to invest much more into the drug development process.”

The economic impact of Alzheimer’s disease is monitored by the Alzheimer’s Association. In 2014, the estimated cost to Americans for the care of those of Alzheimer’s will be $214 billion and an estimated $1.2 trillion in 2050.

“We are investing about $600 million per year in Alzheimer’s research and about $6 billion per year in cancer research… at the same time that Alzheimer’s is having a larger impact on the U.S. economy,” Cummings said. “That doesn’t mean we should be doing less cancer research; we should be doing more Alzheimer’s research.”

Going forward, scientists hope to shift their focus on testing alternative methods of treatment for Alzheimer’s.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a wide range of non-pharmacologic interventions have been proposed or studied. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews of published articles on non-pharmacologic therapies found that only cognitive stimulation had findings that suggested a beneficial effect. So stimulate your brain now using CogniFit personalized brain fitness program.

CogniFit is celebrating Independence Day with a 25% discount on personalized brain training program for individuals!

Simply log in or register for free on cognifit.com and click on this link.

CogniFit launched a dedicated brain fitness platform for schools 

At CogniFit we love getting feedback, we very much value your opinions and greatly appreciate your views. And we have been receiving a ton of feedback from educators, teachers, or professors who want to use the CogniFit personalized brain fitness program with their students. Well, we have heard you and we are very pleased to inform you that we have just launched a dedicated platform for you: CogniFit for Schools

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How fatherhood reshapes your brain

The joys of fatherhood. Becoming a father changes a man’s outlook. It focuses his attention. It typically encourages him to work harder and think more about the future. It tends to make him less selfish. Brain prepares pregnant women to bond with newborn child, what about future dads? While taking care of kids, a man’s brain shows the same patterns of cognitive and emotional engagement that are seen in mothers, a new study showed, suggesting that there could be a parenting brain network that is common to both sexes.

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U.S. Navy uses CogniFit

Pilot fatigue has long been a concern. It has been a problem and a threat to the safety and effectiveness of military and civil transportation. It is the most frequently cited physiological factor contributing to the occurrence of U.S. Naval Aviation flight mishaps. To predict the risks associated with fatigue the aviation industry generally uses tool called “biomathematical models”. Researchers from the United States Navy found that the predictive ability of these tools was significantly improved with the addition of a cognitive program from CogniFit.

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Sleep after learning boosts memory

Numerous studies published over the past decade have shown that a good night’s sleep is essential for brain health as it enhances the consolidation of newly formed memories in people. But exactly how these observations were related was unclear. A new study discovered the mechanism by which a good night’s sleep improves learning and memory.

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Brain imaging reveals lower activity after chemotherapy

For years breast cancer survivors have complained about the mental cloudiness they sometimes notice before, during, and after cancer treatment. This mental fog is commonly called chemo fog or chemo brain. In a prospective, longitudinal study, women with breast cancer who had undergone chemotherapy performed less efficiently on cognitive tests.

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New brain cells may erase childhood memories

What is your earliest memory? It is highly likely that you do not remember your first birthday or anything before your third birthday, and you probably have only a few memories from between the ages of 3 and 7 years old. An adult’s inability to remember early life events, including his or her birth, is called childhood amnesia. The term was initially coined “infantile amnesia” by psychologist Sigmund Freud in 1899 and now researchers have found what could be causing it: the generation of new neurons.

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Brain prepares pregnant women to bond with newborn child

When you are pregnant, you may be wondering how to try to make a connection with your unborn child to strengthen the bond you share, make you feel closer, and enrich your and your baby’s lives. Well, a recent study suggests that the brains of pregnant women may actually be preparing to make strong emotional bonds with a newborn child by increasing the right-side brain activity.

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From left to right: David Ewing Duncan, Nicole Lazzaro, Ariel Garten, Isabela Granic, and Tommy Sagroun (Photo credit: Alexander C. Marcelo Photography)

Tommy Sagroun, CEO of CogniFit, explained that professionals in healthcare and education are much more familiar with brain training at the NeuroGaming 2014 Expo

Yesterday, science writer David Ewing Duncan interviewed Tommy Sagroun (CEO of CogniFit), Isabela Granic (CEO of PlayNice Institute), Ariel Garten (CEO of InterAxon) and Nicole Lazzaro (CEO of XEO Design) during the panel “Improving the Mind - Wellness NeuroGaming” at the NeuroGaming 2014 Expo.

Complete consumer centric products that capture the interest of the broad public will be critical for wellness neurogaming products to have an impact they are looking to have on healthy behavior. Panelists shared their vision on how neurogaming technologies will be used to create compelling, immersive experiences to capture mind and marketshare.

Tommy Sagroun explained that consumers are much more familiar with brain training. So it made perfect sense for professionals in the healthcare and educational industries to use professional cognitive tools to assess, train, and track the cognition of their patients or students.

CogniFit is a finalist in the Best Senior Living Awards 2014 in the Most Innovative Products.

Joyful laughter boosts brain health and reduces stress hormone

We are all familiar with the saying, “laughter is the best medicine.” And this motto may not only be a good medicine for the health of your body but also a good medicine for your brain. Joyful or mirthful laughter produces brain wave frequencies similar to those seen among people who reach what is considered the desired “true state of meditation,” according to a new study.

The new research out of the Loma Linda University in Southern California, presented at the Experimental Biology 2014 conference meetings in San Diego on April 27th, 2014, suggests that Humor Associated with Mirthful Laughter (HAML) is gaining increasing attention as a non-pharmacological lifestyle intervention that integrates mind and body to promote greater wholeness, health, and wellness, and offers therapeutic value for alleviating symptoms from a variety of chronic medical conditions.

"Humor Associated with Mirthful Laughter sustains high-amplitude gamma-band oscillations. Gamma is the only frequency found in every part of the brain," study researcher Lee Berk, DrPH, MPH, of Loma Linda University, said in a statement. "What this means is that humor actually engages the entire brain — it is a whole brain experience with the gamma wave band frequency and humor, similar to meditation, holds it there; we call this being, ‘in the zone.’"

For their research, scientists measured brain activity from nine cerebral cortex scalp areas in 31 participants. Subjects were connected to an EEG monitor as they watched 10-minute video clips that were humorous, distressful, or spiritual in nature. The EEG monitor measured and recorded the power spectral density of all brain wave frequencies from 1 to 40 Hz.

When the participants watched the humorous videos — which provoked Humor Associated with Mirthful Laughter — their brains produced significant gamma wave levels, similar to what you would see when a person meditates. Meanwhile, when they watched the spiritual videos, their brains produced significant alpha brain wave bands, similar to what you’d see when a person is at rest. And when they watched the distressing videos, their brains produced flat brain wave bands, similar to what you would see when a person is detached and does not want to be in a situation, researchers noted.

The findings showed that humor engaged the whole brain, including the entire gamma wave range frequency. Researchers were even able to pinpoint a figure for the optimal laugh: a 30-40 hertz frequency, the same brain wave frequencies seen among people who reach what’s considered the “true state of meditation.” 

“When there is mirthful laughter, it’s as if the brain gets a workout because the gamma wave band is in synch with multiple other areas that are in the same 30-40 hertz frequency,” explained Berk. “This allows for the subjective feeling states of being able to think more clearly and have more integrative thoughts. This is of great value to individuals who need or want to revisit, reorganize, or rearrange various aspects of their lives or experiences, to make them feel whole or more focused.”

Since it is well known that laughter can be a stress reliever, the research team wanted to determine whether humor may reduce brain damage caused by cortisol.

Researchers analyzed one group of elderly individuals who had diabetes and another group of elderly people who were healthy. Both groups were required to view a 20-minute humorous video, before completing a memory test that measured their visual recognition, learning ability and memory recall. A third group of elderly individuals were asked to complete the memory test without watching the funny video. The team then compared the results of all three groups. Cortisol levels for all participants were recorded before and after the experiments.

Scientists found that both groups who watched the humorous video showed a significant reduction in cortisol levels, compared with the group that did not watch the video. The groups that watched the funny video also showed greater improvement in memory recall, learning ability and sight recognition, compared with those who did not watch the video. The diabetic group demonstrated the greatest improvement in both cortisol levels and memory test scores. 

"It’s simple, the less stress you have the better your memory,” Berk said. "Humor reduces detrimental stress hormones like cortisol that decrease memory hippocampal neurons, lowers your blood pressure, and increases blood flow and your mood state."

"The act of laughter - or simply enjoying some humor - increases the release of endorphins and dopamine in the brain, which provides a sense of pleasure and reward." He said that these neurochemical changes in the brain also increase "gamma wave band frequency," which can improve memory. 

"So, indeed," he added, "laughter is turning out to be not only a good medicine, but also a memory enhancer adding to our quality of life.”

College-educated people recover better from a brain injury

College education is often seen as an investment that will pay back for a lifetime, as it helps have better job opportunities or earn more money. It may also improve recovery after traumatic brain injury, according to a new study.

The study published in Neurology on April 23rd, 2014 suggests that the more years of education people have, the more likely they will recover from a traumatic brain injury.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that people who had some college education or a college degree were more likely to go back to work or school disability-free after a traumatic brain injury, than people with no high school diploma.

Earlier studies had shown that education might have a protective effect when it comes to degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Scientists have theorized that education leads to greater “cognitive reserve,” which researchers described in the Neurology paper as the idea that “individuals have inherent differences in their vulnerability to the effects of aging or brain legions, and perhaps also in their capacity to adapt or compensate for such processes.”

In other words, the brains of people with greater cognitive reserve may be more resilient and have greater ability to keep functioning in the face of damage. Researchers said that the theory goes that people with higher levels of education have greater cognitive reserve.

“Added capacity allows us to either work around the damaged areas or to adapt,” said Eric B. Schneider, an assistant professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Schneider and his colleagues suspected that cognitive reserve might play an equally important role in helping people rehab from acute brain damage that results from falls, car crashes and other accidents as it does in Alzheimer’s disease.

For the new study, the researchers examined the medical records of 769 people who were at least 23 years old when they experienced a traumatic brain injury. Participants were followed for a year or more after their injury. Of these people, 24 percent did not finish high school, 51 percent had 12 to 15 years of education or had finished high school or some post-secondary education, and 25 percent had at least an undergraduate college degree or 16 or more years of education.

Researchers found an association between greater education levels and greater likelihood of returning to work or school a year later with no disability after the traumatic brain injury. Specifically, just 10 percent of those who did not have a high school diploma were able to go back to school or work disability-free a year after the injury, compared with 31 percent of people who had some college education. Those with college degrees were most likely to go back to school or work without disability — 39 percent of them did so.

In addition, the odds of living disability-free after a traumatic brain injury were increased nine-fold for people who had 20 or more years of education, compared with those with fewer than 12 years of education, the researchers found.

While the study shows associations between education and cognitive reserve and recovery from a brain injury, the researchers noted that education is only a surrogate for cognitive reserve, and not a direct marker.

"While available published research supports the construct of education as a marker of reserve, it remains unclear whether higher education achievement is causatively linked to great cognitive reserve, results from it, or both," they wrote in the study. "Education attainment itself is not solely reflective of intellectual or cognitive abilities. Motivation to succeed and self-discipline, as well as socioeconomic status, are likely also associated with higher levels of education and may have important roles in determining the degree of post-TBI recovery.”

Start building your cognitive reserve now by training your brain with CogniFit.