Senior citizens, please take note. Lower sleep quality and variability in night sleep time may adversely affect your ability to recall past events, says a study.
The study, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journal, underscores the importance of sleep in maintaining good cognitive functioning.
The study divided participants in two categories: younger adults (18-37 years) and older adults (56-76 years). The participants were given wearable accelerometers to measure sleep duration and quality over seven nights.
“The night-to-night variability in older adults had a major impact on their performance in tests aimed at evaluating episodic memory,” said Audrey Duarte, Associate Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the US.
Stating that the association between sleep and memory has been known, Duarte said this study underlined the connection particularly among older adults and black participants.
“We wanted to know how sleep affected memory, how well they remembered things and how well their brains functioned depending on how well they slept,” said Emily Hokett, a Ph.D student at the institute.
The researchers said regular sleep was important for best cognitive performance at any age. (IANS)
Long-term experience of action real-time strategy games such as World of Warcraft, Age of Empires, and Total War can cause long-term changes in the brain and leads to improvements in temporal visual selective attention, according to a study.
These games, which can be won through strategic planning, selective attention, sensorimotor skills, and teamwork place considerable demands on the brain.
Published in the journal, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, the study shows that expert players of real-time strategy games have faster information processing, allocate more cognitive power to individual visual stimuli and allocate limited cognitive resources between successive stimuli more effectively through time.
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“Our aim was to evaluate the long-term effect of experience with action real-time strategy games on temporal visual selective attention,” said study researcher Diankun Gong from University of Electronic Science and Technology of China.
“In particular, we wanted to reveal the time course of cognitive processes during the attentional blink task, a typical task used by neuroscientists to study visual selective attention,” Gong added. To study the effect of gaming on temporal visual selective attention, the research team selected 38 volunteers, healthy young male students.
Half of the volunteers were expert players of the typical action real-time strategy game League of Legend, where teammates work together to destroy the towers of an opposing team. They had played the game for at least two years and were masters, based on their ranking among the top seven per cent of players.
The others were beginners, with less than six months experience of the same game, and ranked among the bottom 30-45 per cent. All volunteers were seated in front of a screen and tested in a blink task, with 480 trials over a period of approximately two hours.
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The greater a volunteer’s tendency to “blink” targets, the less frequently he would press the correct button when one of the two targets appeared on the screen, and the worse he did overall in the task. The volunteers also wore EEG electrodes on the parietal (i.e. sides and top) region of their scalp, allowing the researchers to measure and localise the brain’s activity throughout the experiment.
“We found that expert League of Legend players outperformed beginners in the task. The experts were less prone to the blink effect, detecting targets more accurately and faster, and as shown by their stronger P3b (positive-going amplitude), gave more attentional cognitive resources to each target,” said study co-author Weiyi Ma from the University of Arkansas in the US. (IANS)
Women who sleep poorly tend to overeat and consume a lower-quality diet, say health and lifestyle researchers, adding that poor sleep quality can increase the risk of heart disease and obesity.
Previous studies have shown that people who get less sleep are more likely to develop obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease–and that the relationship may be partially explained by diet.
The current study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, was designed to get a more comprehensive picture in women by examining associations between overall diet quality and multiple aspects of sleep quality.
“Women are particularly prone to sleep disturbances across the life span, because they often shoulder the responsibilities of caring for children and family and, later, because of menopausal hormones,” said Indian-origin researcher and study senior author Brooke Aggarwal from Columbia University Vagelos.
For the findings, the researchers analysed the sleep and eating habits of an ethnically diverse group of 495 women, ages 20 to 76. The study looked at sleep quality, the time it took to fall asleep, and insomnia.
The women also reported on the types and amounts of foods they typically eat throughout the year, allowing researchers to measure their typical dietary patterns.
Similar to previous studies of sleep and diet, the study found that those with worse overall sleep quality consumed more of the added sugars associated with obesity and diabetes.
Women who took longer to fall asleep had higher caloric intake and ate more food by weight, the researchers said.
And women with more severe insomnia symptoms consumed more food by weight and fewer unsaturated fats than women with milder insomnia.
“Our interpretation is that women with poor-quality sleep could be overeating during subsequent meals and making more unhealthy food choices,” said Aggarwal. “Poor sleep quality may lead to excessive food and calorie intake by stimulating hunger signals or suppressing signals of fullness,” said study lead author Faris Zuraikat.
“Fullness is largely affected by the weight or volume of food consumed, and it could be that women with insomnia consume a greater amount of food in an effort to feel full,” Zuraikat added.
“However, it’s also possible that poor diet has a negative impact on women’s sleep quality, eating more could also cause gastrointestinal discomfort, for instance, making it harder to fall asleep or remain asleep,” Zuraikat concluded. (IANS)
Researchers have found that eating a Mediterranean diet for a year could help keep the mind sharp and reduce frailty in old age. This is the latest health advice.
The study, published in the journal ‘Gut’, showed that following a Mediterranean diet boosts the types of gut bacteria linked to ‘healthy’ ageing, while reducing those associated with harmful inflammation in older people.
As ageing is associated with deteriorating bodily functions and increasing inflammation, both of which herald the onset of frailty, this diet might act on gut bacteria in such a way as to help curb the advance of physical frailty and cognitive decline in older age, the researchers suggested.
“Older people may have dental problems and/or difficulty swallowing, so it may be impractical for them to eat a Mediterranean diet,” they added. But the beneficial bacteria implicated in healthy ageing found in this study might yet prove useful therapeutic agents to ward off frailty, said the study researchers led by University College Cork in Ireland.
For the study, the research team involved 612 people aged between 65 to 79 years, before and after 12 months of either eating their usual diet or a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil and fish and low in red meat and saturated fats, and specially tailored to older people.
The participants, who were either frail, on the verge of frailty, or not frail at the beginning of the study, lived in five different countries: France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, and the UK.
Previous research suggests that a poor/restrictive diet, which is common among older people, reduces the range and types of bacteria (microbiome) found in the gut and helps to speed up the onset of frailty.
According to the researchers, sticking to the Mediterranean diet for 12 months was associated with beneficial changes to the gut microbiome.
It was associated with stemming the loss of bacterial diversity; an increase in the types of bacteria previously associated with several indicators of reduced frailty, such as walking speed and hand grip strength, and improved brain function, such as memory; and with reduced production of potentially harmful inflammatory chemicals.
More detailed analysis revealed that the microbiome changes were associated with an increase in bacteria known to produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids and a decrease in bacteria involved in producing particular bile acids, overproduction of which are linked to a heightened risk of bowel cancer, insulin resistance, fatty liver and cell damage.
According to the study, the bacteria that proliferated in response to the Mediterranean diet acted as ‘keystone’ species, meaning they were critical for a stable ‘gut ecosystem,’ pushing out those microbes associated with indicators of frailty.