Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Curcumin May Improve Memory and Mood According to New Study

Now there’s even more reason to love Indian food. The substance that gives curry its bright yellow color is curcumin. New research has shown that certain forms of curcumin can help improve memory and mood individuals with age related memory loss.  Curcumin, found in turmeric, has long been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also has been hypothesized that curcumin as a dietary supplement could contribute to the low prevalence rate of Alzheimer's disease and better cognitive performance in India.
The research, published online Jan. 19 2018 in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, examined the effects of an curcumin supplement on memory performance in individuals without dementia.  Also studied, was the possible impact of curcumin’s on the plaques and tangles which are hallmark brain symptoms of those with the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.  Results of the study indicated that those who took curcumin demonstrated significant improvements in their memory and attention, while the subjects who received placebo did not improve in either area. Those taking curcumin showed improvements of 28 percent on memory tests over 18 months and showed improvements in mood.  
"Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inflammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer's disease and major depression," said Dr. Gary Small, director of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA's Longevity Center and of the geriatric psychiatry division at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and the study's first author." “These results suggest that taking this relatively safe form of curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the years.”, UCLA's Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging.


Gary W. Small, Prabha Siddarth, Zhaoping Li, Karen J. Miller, Linda Ercoli, Natacha D. Emerson, Jacqueline Martinez, Koon-Pong Wong, Jie Liu, David A. Merrill, Stephen T. Chen, Susanne M. Henning, Nagichettiar Satyamurthy, Sung-Cheng Huang, David Heber, Jorge R. Barrio. Memory and Brain Amyloid and Tau Effects of a Bioavailable Form of Curcumin in Non-Demented Adults: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled 18-Month Trial. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.jagp.2017.10.010

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Health Care Provider Fined Millions for Failure to Protect Health Records

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has settled a lawsuit with 21st Century Oncology, Inc. (21CO) involving their failure to protect health care records of millions of people.  The settlement includes a has $2.3 million fine which has been agreed to instead of possible civil money penalties which could have amounted to much more.  21CO has also agreed to put into place a complete corrective action plan to remediate current problems and prevent future violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules.
The case was initiated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who informed 21CO that they had determined that patient information had been illegally accessed by an unauthorized third party. They provided 21CO with patient files that an FBI informant had illegally bought. 21CO conducted an internal investigation, through an outside forensic auditing firm.  It was determined that the attacker accessed health care records through a Remote Desktop Protocol from an Server housed within 21CO’s internal network. The company learned that more than 2.2 million people had their medical information illegally accessed.  Information obtained by the attacker included patient names, social security numbers, physicians’ names, diagnoses, treatment and insurance information.

The HHS subsequent investigation determined that 21CO engaged in the following illegal activities:
  • Unauthorized disclosure of Personal Health Information (PHI)
  • Failure to thoroughly evaluate possible risks to confidentiality of PHI
  • Failure to impose security measure that were effective in reducing the risk to PHI and to comply with HHS requirements
  • Failure to hold regular review of system information activity including audit logs, access reports, and security incident tracking reports
  • Disclosed information to individuals and entities it allowed to act as business associates without written business associate agreements

21CO provides cancer care and oncological radiation services. While their headquarters is located in Fort Myers, Florida, the company has 179 treatment centers which operate in 17 states and seven countries in Latin America.  Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2017, 21CO received permission from the bankruptcy court to agree to the settlement agreement.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Study Suggests Diabetes Drug May Help Reverse Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

A new study carried out at Lancaster University in England indicates that a drug used to treat diabetes significantly reverses memory loss and brain degeneration in mice.  This research utilized mice who had been bred to express genes indicated in Alzheimer’s disease in humans effectively creating a rodent version of the disease.
The diabetes drug, called a triple receptor, combines three molecules known as growth factors.  The drug was used to treat mice who had been allowed to age which gave the disease time to develop fully and damage the animal’s brain. After administering the drug, the mice underwent a maze test which measured memory.
Results showed that the drug was associated with improved learning and memory skills in the mice. There were also physiological change including a reduced amounts of plaque buildup in the brain, which is a primary characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.  The mice who were given the drug also were found to have reduced levels of chronic inflammation in their brains, slower rates of brain nerve cell loss, and increased brain nerve cell protection. Additionally, the diabetes drug appeared to prevent and even reversed the brain growth impairment that leads to nerve cells losing function ultimately results in some of the classic symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. 
The growth factors in this drug specifically affected growth in the animals' brains.  This is important as the brains of Alzheimer’s patients are shown to display growth impairment. This impairment has been associated with the cognitive decline that occurs in those with the condition.
It is hoped that the same results will be found when human testing occurs leading to an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and other memory-related illnesses.  According to the lead study researcher Christian Holscher of Lancaster University, the results of this study suggest that the drug in question, "has a clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease."  These findings and the associated indications for the development of future treatment options is particularly exciting, as it has been 15 years since a new Alzheimer’s drug has become available. 
Tai, J., Liu, W., Li, Y., Li, L., & Hölscher, C. (2018). Neuroprotective effects of a triple GLP-1/GIP/glucagon receptor agonist in the APP/PS1 transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Brain research, 1678, 64-74.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

New Study Suggests Non-Invasive Treatment for Autism

Following the report of the results of a new research study, scientists are looking at the possibility of treating children with autism with neuromodulation to help correct social deficits.

Research has long established that there are specific areas of the brain responsible for problem behaviors in people with autism.  There has been a great deal of controversy over what implications this information might have for treatment.  Electrical stimulation has been proposed but this has been resisted because treatment should be conducted as early as possible, meaning many of the individuals you would be treating would be children.  Other opposition to such treatment comes from the fact that the primary areas that would be targeted lie deep within the brain and cannot be reliably reached. 

New research from the O'Donnell Brain Institute has demonstrated that a specific part of the cerebellum that has been believed to contribute coordinating movement is actually important for social behaviors in people with autism. This groundbreaking research not only establishes a more accessible target for brain stimulation but it also can help correct social impairments, one of the major areas of difficulties for those with autism.  

While some say this treatment would only be effective with those treated at the very earliest ages, the researchers don’t agree. Using a mouse model, they conducted additional research which seemed to indicate that neuromodulation restored social behaviors even in adult mice. This result suggests individuals with autism still might benefit from brain stimulation intervention  even if treatment is not provided until later in life.

Dr. Peter Tsai, the director of the research study, said, "This is potentially quite a powerful finding,  From a therapeutic standpoint, this part of the cerebellum is an enticing target. And although neuromodulation would not cure the underlying genetic cause of a person's autism, improving social deficits in children with autism could make a huge impact on their quality of life."


Stoodley, C. J., D’Mello, A. M., Ellegood, J., Jakkamsetti, V., Liu, P., Nebel, M. B., Gibson,J. M., Kelly, E., Meng, F.. Cano, C. A., Pascual, J. M., Mostofsky, S. H.. Lerch, J. P. & Tsai, P. T., (2017).  Altered cerebellar connectivity in autism and cerebellar-mediated rescue of autism-related behaviors in mice. Nature Neuroscience, 20 (12): 1744.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Unsynchronized Brain Waves During Sleep Make Us Forget

Likened to a tennis serve where the ball toss and the racket swing must coordinate
perfectly to score an ace, overnight brain waves must sync properly for remembering
to occur, a new study finds.  As with everything, it’s all about timing.  While slow
and fast brain waves are integrated and balanced in younger adults, when we age
slow waves that occur during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep fail to fully
coordinate with quick electrical bursts known as spindles.

Using tennis terminology, the slow waves are like the toss of the ball, while the fast
waves are like the swing of the racket. If either of these two components are off in
terms of rhythm, the serve will either travel short or long in terms of distance, or go
out of bounds or the racket might even fail to make contact with the ball completely.
In sleep, this mistiming prevents older adults from being able to save new memories.  
These findings explain way older adults often seem able to better remember things
that occurred in the past rather than those that recently occurred.  The study also
suggests that this problem is the result of atrophy of the medial frontal cortex, an
area in the brain responsible for deep sleep which is restorative.  

The good news from this study is that there is now hope for a potential treatment
that could help with memory loss in aging adults.  New studies are being undertaken
to examine the effects of applying electrical stimulation to the frontal lobe of the
brain in an effort to synchronize slow waves with spindles   According to the studies
senior author Matthew Walker, “By electrically boosting these nighttime brainwaves,
we hope to restore some degree of healthy deep sleep in the elderly and those with
dementia, and in doing so, salvage aspects of their learning and memory,"


Helfrich, R. F., Mander, B. A., Jagust, W. J., Knight, R. T. & Walker, M. P. (2017). Old Brains Come Uncoupled in Sleep:  Slow Wave - Spindle Synchrony, Brain Atrophy and Forgetting.. Neuron.  

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Mental Health Myth: Aging Leads to Depression

Myth: Everyone gets depressed as they grow older. It’s just a natural part of the aging process.

Fact: Depression is not a normal part of the aging process. According to the CDC, most seniors are not depressed. Estimates suggest that only about 1 to 5 percent of those living in the community are suffering from depression. However, these figures rise to 13.5 percent for those requiring home healthcare and 11.5 percent of seniors in the hospital. This is still a far cry from equaling the majority of older adults.

It is important to understand that due to changes in roles, decreases in social networks, loss of a spouse, relatives and friends, lack of transportation, loneliness, and change to living environment among other factors, seniors can have an increased risk of depression. However, it is not a biological certainty that older individuals will become depressed.

The belief that depression is a normal part of aging makes it more likely that people will minimize it when it does occur.  This may include the individual themselves and friends and family members all of whom may think treatment isn’t needed if it normal or there is no treatment that will be effective.   Today, increased knowledge and better technology have provided strategies that effectively address and control depression in seniors. There are treatment options specifically developed for older individuals that can help

If an older adult does experiences depression, they need the same support as anyone else. If you are concerned about someone you care about who is older and appears to be suffering from depression, talk to them about getting help.  Offer to accompany them to see a healthcare provider and choose one that specializes in geriatrics.  With the right care, those seniors who do suffer from depression can be cured and can continue to live happy, fulfilling lives.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Five Facts About Senior Loneliness and Isolation that will Shock You

According to the 2016 U.S. Census, almost 30% of those age 65 and older in the U.S live alone. As people get older, the chances they will live alone increases. In addition to this difficulty, according to the AARP, a greater number of older adults do not have children. This translates into fewer relatives to visit and help care for seniors. Living alone does not automatically result in social isolation. However, it is the most significant predisposing factor. The following five facts about senior loneliness and isolation will help you stay informed about this major problem.
  1. Social isolation and feelings of loneliness negatively affect both long term physical and mental health.  Loneliness has been tied to chronic high blood pressure, lung disease, heart disease, arthritis, impaired mobility, depression and anxiety.  Awareness and self-monitoring of physical health and mood can be an important step in getting the help needed.

  2. LGBT seniors are two times more likely to be single, childless, estranged from their biological families and socially isolated than other seniors.  Stigma and discrimination serve as major barriers to support and community involvement.  However, there are increasing numbers of community groups and online resources for aiding these seniors in avoiding social isolation and loneliness.

  3. Social isolation and feelings of loneliness contribute to decreases in mental capacity and increases in the risk of dementia. Since we are social beings, failure to meet our social needs is associated with poorer mental performance and faster cognitive decline.

  4. Social isolation makes seniors more vulnerable to elder abuse.The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that research shows a link between loneliness and social isolation and elder abuse.  It is unclear as to the exact manner in which this occurs.  It is possible that those who are isolated and lonely are more likely to fall victim due to the desire for companionship.  It is also possible that abusers isolate potential victims to prevent discovery.

  5. Loneliness in seniors can actually lead to others purposely isolating them.  This seems like a contradiction.  We would like to believe that when we have a friend or relative who is suffering from loneliness we would try to find some way to help, such as visiting with the person.  Yet research has shown that loneliness breeds loneliness.  When we spend time around someone who is lonely and depressed, we may find we begin to  feel the same way.  Unfortunately, the tendency in such a situation is to further isolate the individual in order to prevent threats to our social cohesion in the form of social exclusion, belonging and marginalization.   

Have you or a friend or family member suffered from loneliness or social isolation during the aging process? What, in your opinion, is the most helpful strategy for reducing this sense of loneliness and  isolation? Join the discussion in the comments section below.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Mental Health Myth: People with Mental Difficulties are Violent

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Myth: People with mental disorders are violent or dangerously unpredictable and volatile

Truth: This falsehood causes more difficulties for those with mental health issues than any other.  It is one of the main causes of communities refusing to approve treatment facilities within their borders and advocates for greater latitude in involuntary commitment and who is able to involuntarily commit someone.  Movies, TV, books, games and the media often tell us the inaccurate, stigmatizing tale that people experiencing mental illness are violent and dangerous.  

And many people believe it.  A recent national public opinion survey showed that a large proportion of individuals believe that that there is a strong association between mental disorders and violence.  Surveys have determined that over 60 percent of American respondents believed that those suffering from schizophrenia were likely to act violently towards others and over 32 percent believed the same about those with depressions.  

Yet the large majority of those living with a mental health difficulty are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Research has shown that only 3 percent to 5 percent of violent acts committed are carried out by individuals suffering from a mental disorder.  The fact is that those with serious mental health problems are actually 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime compared to others. It is quite likely that you know at least one person with a mental health disorder without realizing it. A large percentage of individuals with mental health issues are productive members of our society.  

Michelle Pruett Nostheide, director of public education at the National Mental Health Association (NMHA). Says, “In my position, I see outrageous marketing campaigns, movie trailers, commercials, even children’s toys, that paint an unfair picture of people with mental illness, or use mental illnesses as a source of ridicule or humor.  .“People that know someone with a mental illness or have one themselves are offended or saddened by these portrayals, but the real damage is done when people who have no experience with mental health accept these stereotypes and pass them on.”

Monday, July 17, 2017

Do You Know the Truth About Mental Health?

Do you know the difference between a mental health myth and fact? Learn the truth about common mental health myths.

Myth: Mental illness will never affect me.

Mental health problems are actually extremely very common.  While not everyone will develop a diagnosable disorder, everyone experiences issues with mental health that are milder versions of a disorder either in duration or severity, subclinical symptoms of a disorder, or manifestations that closely resemble symptoms.  Everyone is equally predisposed to developing mental health issues and whether they do or not is largely dependent on what they encounter in their environment.  

The vulnerability to developing mental health difficulties the types of difficulties we may evidence, are reflections of what it is to be human.  We have feelings about other people and ourselves, perceptions about the world in which we live and the way it operates, individual characteristics that make us each unique such as personality, and ways of relating to those around us.  Each of these areas makes our lives richer but also provides room for problems to emerge.  

Facts: Statistics from 2014 show how common mental health problems are.

  • One in five American adults experienced a mental health issue
  • 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder
  • 7% of adults in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode
  • 17.2% experienced minor depression
  • Globally, one in four people experienced a mental health problem
  • One in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression
  • One in 25 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression that significantly interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • One in 20 Americans experienced a substance use disorder or used substances to the degree that they interfered with at least one major life activity
  • Among those who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5% had a co-occurring mental illness
  • Four percent of Americans experienced serious suicidal thoughts.
  • There were 41,149 suicides in the United States, approximately 113 suicides each day or one every 13 minutes.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Power Really Does Go to Your Head - Literally

It’s commonly said about people who have reached the top of their field or otherwise wield a great deal of control that they have let power go to their heads.  While this is usually meant figuratively, a new study conducted at Berkeley suggests the saying may be more realistic than otherwise thought.

In depth research conducted in the lab and then generalized to real life settings has shown that several those who hold powerful positions are more impulsive, less aware of risk and less able to see another person’s perspective.  These characteristics are characteristic of those who have experienced brain damage caused by traumatic brain injury.

Power has been found to significantly influence empathy.  In particular, having a high level of social power appears to make people less emotionally responsive to the suffering of others.  They also don’t find the emotional reactions of others who are in pain to be important or meaningful.  Those who hold a great degree of power experience less distress and compassion and more emotion regulation when faced with someone who discloses that they are suffering. 

One explanation that has been given for these findings is that when people attain power they often lose the awareness of what got them there.  A big part of that is appreciation for others efforts in their climb and seeing the world through another’s eyes is related to that.  Often people in power believe that acknowledging that they had help getting to where they are will weaken their power base.  Similarly, those who were given a hand in obtaining power are frequently the least likely to help others on their attempt to rise to the top. 

Neuropsychologists have determined that powerful people fail to mimic others in social interactions.  This is important because this is how our conversations work.  When someone we are talking to laughs we laugh too.  Likewise, when someone expresses sadness we show similar emotions.  The failure to do so leaves the other person feeling misunderstood and unimportant to the person, to whom they are speaking. 

Studies using transcranial magnetic stimulation which measures which parts of the brain are firing found that the neural pathways that cause us to mirror someone else fired strongly in those who aren’t powerful but not in powerful individuals.  Powerful people were also less likely to put effort into increasing their emotional responses to others even when instructed to do so compared to low power individuals.  

It may be the case that those who first attain power, believe that showing a great deal of compassion for others will be viewed as weak so they purposely try to inhibit any empathy they might feel.  In the same vein, powerful people may believe that seeing from someone else’s point of view or being influenced by another’s perspective may be interpreted as If others have the power.  Then over time, these intentional efforts may lead to damage to structures and functions of the brain involved in relating to other people and forming meaningful connections.

 So those whose power has gone to their heads may have suffered damage that cannot be corrected.  However, it may also be the case that these individuals wouldn’t want to change it even if they could.  It can be argued that for those who have to make life or death decisions, low empathy is beneficial.  Yet, this research makes you wonder, at what cost?