Monday, July 7, 2008

Computer Games Help People With Dementia

Computer games offer an exciting and engaging way of helping older people with dementia keep their brain active and learn new skills. This is the finding of Arlene Astell and her colleagues at the Universities of St Andrews and Dundee.Poor memory and concentration make it difficult for people with dementia to function. 'Living in the moment' is a project that has drawn on the principles of gaming development and the psychology of dementia to develop helpful and fun computer games for dementia sufferers. The presentation will include videos of the games being used by participants, who were involved at every stage of its development. The project demonstrated that people with dementia can learn new activities with appropriate prompting. Arlene said; 'Working together with people with dementia we have explored over 20 different games and activities in our efforts to find out what people enjoy. The people with a diagnosis of dementia were very helpful in telling us what they like and dislike and were very accommodating in trying out what ever we put in front of them.'
'This project may be unique in working solely with people with dementia rather than involving family or professional caregivers and it clearly demonstrates that people with a diagnosis of dementia can participate fully and make their news known.' 'Based on the feedback received we are now developing a gaming package designed to support and engage people with dementia in enjoyable and stimulating activities

Diet to Boost Memory

As concern over Alzheimer’s disease grows, more Indians are turning to expensive and potentially unsafe supplements that claim to enhance memory. But prevention of age-related memory loss may be no further away than your refrigerator, and no more expensive than a bag of groceries, experts say.
More research is being done than ever these days on diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Scientists are developing a better understanding of why memories fade, and along the way they are finding new ways to combat the decline.

For one thing, research increasingly suggests that diet may be important in preventing Alzheimer's.

Inside the aging process
As the brain ages, it loses the ability to protect itself from the barrage of commonplace dangers it faces every day, particularly inflammation and oxidation, a process which allows damaging free radicals to attach themselves to cells.
While it's not entirely clear what causes Alzheimer's disease, amyloid plaque — a goopy, fibrous substance akin to fur balls in the brain — plays a key role. As the plaque builds up, it causes more oxidation and inflammation, and begins to kill off brain cells.
In addition, brain cells often stop communicating with each other as people age, making it harder for the brain to process thoughts, retain short-term memory and create new cells

While research in the field of aging and nutrition is still in its infancy, scientists have found that diet may help minimize the brain's sensitivity to oxidation and inflammation, as well as improve brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other.
One of the most intriguing areas of research involves the role of antioxidants, potent chemicals in plants that protect against free radicals, highly active molecules that damage cells. Antioxidants are what give fruits and vegetables their bright colors. Plants produce these chemicals to protect themselves from environmental insults, such as pollution, and when humans eat plants, they also reap the protective benefits.
Recent Research shows that brain has a capacity to recover some age-related loss of cognitive function.
Moreover, MRI scans later revealed structural changes in the brains of the patients on the antioxidant diet, most notably a decrease in the buildup of amyloid plaque.

A cornucopia of benefits
Many fruits and vegetables primarily valued for their powerful antioxidants may in fact provide multiple benefits for the aging brain. They may not only slow oxidation, but may also act as anti-inflammatory agents, make the brain less vulnerable to amyloid plaque, improve communication between neurons and allow the brain to regenerate — all of which contribute to better memory in old age.
Purple fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, cranberries and Concord grapes, may be especially beneficial for the brain.
In addition to particular fruits and vegetables, scientists believe that curcumin, a spice used in our country and known for its anti-inflammatory effects, may prevent memory loss. Curcumin is what gives yellow curry its bright color and is frequently used as a natural food dye.
New research has also shown that B vitamins, such as niacin and folic acid, are vitally important to brain function and may help keep the mind sharp. Found in a range of foods, including lean meat, fish, legumes, dairy products, grains and green, leafy vegetables, B vitamins appear to help control inflammation and may play a role in the development of new brain cells.

Supplements may not do the same
Given the growing evidence of the benefits of antioxidants and other chemicals on the brain, why not just take specific supplements to prevent memory loss?
Most researchers caution that sources of antioxidants from food are far more effective — and safer — than supplements. Although it isn't precisely known how the chemicals work, it’s believed that they act in combination with one another.
In addition, different chemicals in plants protect against different kinds of damage, and there may be additional but as yet undiscovered substances in plants that work with antioxidants to provide the protective effects.

Cutting cholesterol, eating fish may keep mind sharp
Besides eating more fruits and veggies, avoiding saturated fats and trans fats may also help prevent age-related memory loss. When it comes to the amount of fat in the diet, researchers have found that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain. In the same way that reducing levels of bad cholesterol can prevent arteries from becoming ravaged by atherosclerosis, low cholesterol levels in the diet may also help protect brain cells.
A high-fat diet is bad for learning and memory, and the low-calorie and intermittent fasting diets preserve learning and memory. Although an actual cause and effect has not yet been proven, cholesterol appears to promote the production of amyloid plaque and contains an enzyme that the plaque needs to grow. It also promotes harmful oxidation and can cause damage to cell membranes.

A fishy story
While diets high in cholesterol are bad for the brain, getting plenty of omega 3 fatty acids, found primarily in fish, is vital for a healthy noggin, researchers say. In particular, a component of omega 3 fatty acids known as DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is key.
DHA is found in high concentrations in the brain and is needed for healthy cognitive function. It is widely believed to have an anti-inflammatory effect and is known to have a protective benefit on the heart. The most concentrated source of DHA is oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, herring, sardines and mackerel.
In an observational study conducted at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Dr. Martha Clare Morris, associate professor of internal medicine, found that people who ate fish once a week had a 60 percent reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s compared with people who never ate fish. Eating fish more than once a week did not appear to provide additional benefits.
Other studies have found similar results.

What about toxins?
Despite the protective effects of eating fish, many people may worry about the potential dangers of fat-soluble toxins such as mercury and dioxins. Most researchers don't have an answer to this conundrum except to point out that the health benefits for populations of people who eat lots of fish, such as the Japanese, appear to outweigh the risks.
For those consumers willing to pay extra, fish oil or purified DHA may offer similar benefits, although it's unclear if they're as beneficial as eating fish itself.

Top brain-enhancing foods

Fruits - Blueberries- Blackberries- Cranberries- Strawberries- Raspberries- Plums- Avocados- Oranges- Red grapes- Cherries- Red apples
Vegetables- Kale- Spinach- Brussels sprouts- Alfalfa sprouts- Broccoli- Beets- Red bell peppers- Onions
B vitamins -Brewers or nutritional yeast- Nuts and seeds - Legumes- Wheat germ- Dairy products- Lean meat and poultry- Seafood- Eggs- Whole grains- Spinach and leafy greens- Carrots- Asparagus- Broccoli

Omega 3 fatty acids -Salmon- Sardines- Bluefish- Herring- Mackerel- Tuna