2020 has been a challenging year. Despite the demanding pandemic, Lifebrain has been able to continue its activities. You will find below a summary of Lifebrain highlights in 2020. We would like to thank you all for your great support and interest in Lifebrain and wish you a happy and safe Christmas holiday!
Life expectancy is probably one of the best and most used measures we have for an objective quantification of health because it is a resultant of genetic and environmental factors of importance for life.
Life expectancy is a statistical measure of the average time a person is expected to live, based on year of birth, current age, sex, and other demographic factors. The most commonly used measure is life expectancy at birth (LEB), which can be defined as the average number of years that a newborn is expected to live if current mortality rates continue to apply at a given year like 2020.
Considering factors of importance for longevity, we notice a striking similarity to factors of importance for good brain functions (as outlined in some previous E-newsletters).
Read more about the marked differences in life expectancy between different geographical areas and their underlying causes in the Lifebrain e-newsletter November 2020.
By taking a simple blood test, it is possible to get some information about the brain. This is because biomarkers in the blood can give an indication of the biological state of the brain.
Two types of biomarkers are relevant for brain health – general (for e.g. D vitamin, Omega 3 fatty acids, cholesterol etc.) and brain-specific (for e.g. tau protein and amyloid beta, which are linked to Alzheimer`s disease). Read more about the biomarkers of the brain in the latest Lifebrain newsletter September 2020.
Being connected with others and feeling that there are people “with you” and not just “around you” may have an important effect on well-being and brain health. The latest findings from the Lifebrain study suggest that loneliness may accelerate memory decline in older age. Read more about loneliness in the Lifebrain e-newsletter August 2020.
People make immensely valuable contributions to research. Mrs. A., the last of the 516 BASE participants, was one of them. This article is a tribute to her in gratitude for the time and engagement she has given to supporting research and allowing insights into her life.
In December, Mrs. A., passed away at the age of 107. The Berlin Aging Study (BASE) is a multidisciplinary investigation of old people aged from 70 to over 100 years who lived in the former West-Berlin. The study covered their mental and physical health, psychological functioning and socio-economic status. Read more about her research participation and life in the Lifebrain e-newsletter June 2020.
The brain is really something! Did you know that it contains about 75-80 % water (by weight), 10 % lipids, and 10 % proteins? Did you know that under normal conditions, the brain exclusively uses glucose as an energy source. However, the brain can also run on something called ketone bodies mostly produced by the liver from fat during long-term fasting. Have you thought about that without the brain, there is no conscious life? Read more in the May 2020 Lifebrain e-newsletter and find out all you need to know about the brain!
The use of Virtual Reality (VR) technology has developed markedly in recent years. Virtual experiences that used to be the domain of science fiction writers are now available for consumers. VR also makes it possible to design experiments that would otherwise be impossible. In the April edition of the Lifebrain newsletter you can read about how VR can be used to study how training people's navigation skills can affect their brain.
The rate at which we age vary greatly among people, and many age-related changes and disorders seem to have substantial heritable components. What can genetic studies tell us about how we age? Read more in the latest issue of the Lifebrain newsletter.
Most people, (even scientists!) experience a marked barrier in the way information is presented in scientific papers. It is often so different and complicated that we´ll rather rely on somebody else to explain the main points. However, if you want to get first hand knowledge of a topic you have to go to the scientific articles describing the original observations.
Have a look at our guide to scientific reading in the first Lifebrain newsletter of 2020!
Read our summary of 2019 in the last Lifebrain newsletter of the year.
In this second part of our series on physical activity we look into how physical activity may affect brain health. One of the hypothesized causal factors is circulating proteins called “myokines” that are released from working muscles or other tissues during exercise. Read more in the November edition of our newsletter.
Physical activity has been shown to reduce age-related cognitive decline, probably by improving brain health. In two recent studies, Lifebrain researchers at the University of Cambridge found that both subjective and objective measures of physical activity were associated with less age-related changes in the brain. Meaning that keeping our bodies fit contributes to keeping our brain healthy into old age. Read more in the October newsletter, part one out of two in our series on physical activity.
In the last newsletter we learned about the nature of sleep and how it can be measured and classified. In this edition we look into the functions of sleep. Researchers think that sleep trigger processes in the brain that strengthen memories. One idea is that this takes place through the spontaneous reactivation of memories during sleep. In other words, you now have the perfect excuse to take a nap after learning something new- as your brain might keep repeating what you just learned.
Sleep is vital. We know that our brains remain highly active when we sleep. Lack of sleep have many negative effects, both on our health and mental functions. Sleep is necessary for having a fully functioning brain when we are awake; perhaps because sleep helps to restore the energy consumed by the body and brain throughout the day. Sleep may also enable removal of harmful material that accumulate in the brain when we are awake. Sleep seems to play a crucial role in learning and memory, especially by aiding long-term storage of memories.
The Global Brain Health Survey was launched in June 2019. It is the first global, anonymous online survey to learn about people`s views on the brain and brain health. The survey results will be used to develop policy recommendations to help people take care of their brain in a way that fits their daily life. The more answers we get, the better!
What characterises people who maintain their memory into older age? The so-called memory maintainers showed that they were more often women, carried beneficial genetic variants, were more physically active at study baseline, and also tended to live together with someone to a larger extent than people in the average memory development group.
Premature infants often do not get enough building blocks, namely, food with essential nutrients and energy. By enhanced supply of energy, protein, fat, essential fatty acids and Vitamin A, it is possible to improve growth and cognitive function in very low birth weight infants. This enhanced nutrition can reduce the serious long term brain-related damages experienced with prematurity.
The biological clock in people with depression ticks faster and the body ages faster than healthy controls - according to a current study by the University Medical Center in Amsterdam. The good news is that improving diet and increasing physical activity may reduce depressive symptoms. Read more about the impact of depression on biological ageing in the Lifebrain e-newsletter March 2019.
Most of the essential nutrients seem to be important for the brain as well as the rest of the body. Still, iodine is one of the dietary components with very marked effects on brain development. Iodine deficiency is a major cause of preventable intellectual disability among infants, and population studies suggest that approximately 1.6 billion people are at risk of iodine deficiency.
Memory training can slow down brain deterioration at older adults. However, the positive effects wore off when the research participants did not train. This could mean that continous tranining is required for lasting effects on the brains`s white matter microstructure - found in a current study of the Center for Changes in Brain and Cognition, University of Oslo in Norway.
Certain nutrients such as essential fatty acids, choline/betaine/B-vitamins, iodine, iron, retinol, vitamin D and total energy supply are particularly important for brain function during fetal and childhood development. However, also in adult life nutrient intake is important for brain function. Some studies suggest that B-vitamins as well as essential fatty acids may have roles in preventing mild cognitive impairment.
Dried blood spots (DBS) involve the simple collection of small amounts of blood on special paper, eliminating time-consuming blood tests and making it easier to store and transport. They are making testing for biomarkers for brain conditions much easier.
Frequently engaging in social and intellectually stimulating activities is linked to better brain health in old age.
Despite age-related brain shrinkage, some people are able to maintain their thinking abilities into older age and have a low risk of developing dementia.
Living close to a forest might have beneficial effects on coping with stress according to a study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin. The study focused on the relationship between the close natural surroundings to peoples’ homes and their brain health. A new Lifebrain study has been initiated to accumulate more evidence, at a multinational, European level.