Tag Archives: memory

Testosterone gel shows no benefit for older men’s memories

Testosterone treatment did not improve older men’s memory or mental function in the latest results from landmark government research that challenges the anti-aging claims of popular supplements.

While testosterone use for one year appeared to strengthen bones and reduce anemia, it also showed signs of worsening artery disease and questions remain about other potential risks. The researchers said more studies are needed to determine long-term effects — the kind of research the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already asked supplement makers to conduct.

‘’I don’t think anybody would interpret these results as saying, ‘Wow, this is a fountain of youth, this is a magical anti-aging potion,”” said study co-author Susan Ellenberg, a University of Pennsylvania researcher.

The results are from the final four studies in a seven-part project mostly funded by the National Institute on Aging, involving nearly 800 U.S. men aged 65 and older with low testosterone levels. The goal was to see if rubbing testosterone gel on the skin daily for a year could treat problems linked with low levels of the male hormone, which declines with age. Half the men in each group used the real thing and half used fake gel.

Results published a year ago from the same research linked testosterone with mostly modest improvement in sexual performance, walking strength and mood.

The key new findings:

_Testosterone had no effect on memory or mental function, based on tests given before, halfway and at the end of treatment to nearly 500 men with age-related memory decline.

_Among almost 140 men who underwent heart artery imaging tests to see if the hormone slowed progression of plaque, those who used testosterone had more plaque buildup and narrower arteries after a year than the fake gel group. Those changes could signal increased chances for heart attacks although none occurred in the study. Men in this sub-study were already more vulnerable for heart problems because of conditions including artery disease, obesity and high blood pressure.

_Among about 200 men given bone imaging tests before and at the end of treatment, those on testosterone showed increases in bone density and strength, especially in the spine, while minimal changes were found in the group that used fake gel. The improvement was similar to bone changes seen with treatment for osteoporosis, although most men studied did not have that bone-thinning condition, which can lead to fractures.

_Among 126 men with anemia, a fatigue-linked condition involving inadequate red blood cells, those on testosterone showed substantial improvement. By the study’s end, anemia had vanished in almost 60 percent of men on testosterone compared with 22 percent of the fake gel group. The hormone group also reported having more energy. “The overall health benefits, however, remain to be determined,” the researchers said.

The studies were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and JAMA Internal Medicine. AbbVie Pharmaceuticals provided its gel for the study and helped pay for the research but had no other role in the study.

The research was not designed to look at risks and does not apply to younger men or those with normal levels of testosterone, said study leader Dr. Peter Snyder, a University of Pennsylvania hormone specialist. It’s also not known if other forms of testosterone supplements would have similar effects in older men with low levels.

Prescription testosterone products including gel are approved only for men with low levels of the hormones caused by various medical conditions. Benefits and risks are unknown in men whose levels are low due only to aging, the FDA says. The agency requires testosterone labels to include possible risks for heart attacks and strokes, based on some previous studies.

A separate study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that men using prescription testosterone gel, patches or injections had fewer heart attacks and strokes during about three years of follow-up than non-users. But this was only observational data in men aged 40 and up, not rigorous research testing the hormone against a placebo.

Clarifying testosterone’s effects on heart problems, fractures and age-related disability will require larger, longer studies, said Dr. Evan Hadley of the National Institute on Aging. He said decisions about whether to use testosterone should take into account men’s individual risks for conditions the hormone could affect.

 

Apple unveils iPhone with high-res cameras, no headphone jack

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Apple Inc. unveiled an iPhone 7 with high-resolution cameras and no headphone jack at its annual launch this week, though the biggest surprise was the debut of a three-decade-old Nintendo game franchise, Super Mario Bros, on the smartphone.

While shares of Apple barely budged, Nintendo’s U.S.-listed shares jumped 29 pct on investors’ hopes that Super Mario would be another mobile gaming hit for the Japanese company akin to the wildly popular Pokemon Go.

Much of the presentation headed by Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook was devoted to technical details of photography, wireless earphones, games from Nintendo, and a new version of Apple watch – with fitness features.

The biggest iPhone technical improvements all had leaked, and Apple itself spoiled the surprise by sending out tweets of some details before Cook spoke. The company then deleted the messages.

Apple has reported declines in iPhone sales for the last two quarters, which raised the stakes for the iPhone 7. Some consumers and analysts are considering waiting until 2017.

“Just gonna wait on iPhone 8 cuz it’s the 10th anniversary of iPhone,” Tweeted @LewBruh near the end of the event. “Ya know they gonna do something big.”

But Mike Binger, senior portfolio manager at Gradient Investments LLC in Minneapolis, said the new phone encouraged him that Apple was in good shape for a new sales cycle.

“I think the iPhone 7, just from a replacement basis, will be a successful launch,” he said.

The world’s best-known technology company said the iPhone 7 would have one, zooming 12-megapixel camera. Starting at $649, it is the same price as the 6S predecessor. The larger 7 ‘Plus’ edition, starting at $769, would feature two cameras, including a telephoto lens.

Apple also removed the analog headphone jack from both new models, as was widely expected. The new headphones supplied by Apple with the phone will plug into the same port as the recharging cord, making it incompatible with most wired headphones without an adaptor. Apple includes the adapter.

The phones will also work with Apple’s new wireless headphones, called Air Pods, available in late October at a price of $159.

The disappearance of the headphone jack “will probably annoy a certain amount of people” but they would likely get over it, Binger said.

Apple described dropping the jack as an act of courage as it moved toward a wireless future with the optional Air Pods. Getting rid of the jack also increased room for stereo speakers, and Apple sharpened the technology on most features, from the camera to a pressure-sensitive home button to a boost in memory.

The new phone will start shipping in major markets, including the United States and China, on Sept. 16.

Bob O’Donnell of research firm TECHnalysis said Apple’s new glossy black finish could be more popular than any tech feature, reflecting the slowdown in major tech innovations for smartphones.

“While the camera improvements for the iPhone 7 Plus are nice, they are incremental for most and the lack of headphone jacks could offset that for others,” he said.

Apple typically gives its main product, which accounts for more than half of its revenue, a big makeover every other year and the last major redesign was the iPhone 6 in 2014. Many are expecting a three-year cycle this time, culminating in a major redesign for 2017 to be called iPhone 8.

Apple said its Apple Watch Series 2, with a swim-proof casing, will be available in more than 25 countries starting on Sept. 16.

“I predict Watch sales will improve dramatically,” said Tech analyst Patrick Moorhead. “Most of the current Watch owners are early adopters and the next wave could be 10 times the size of that market.”

Apple also launched a new version of the device called the Apple Watch Nike+, in partnership with the athletic goods manufacturer Nike Inc., featuring GPS so athletes can track their runs.

Shares of Fitbit Inc., which makes activity-tracking bands, closed down 2 percent on the emergence of such a high-profile competitor.

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Study: Americans remember presidents that never were

About 71 percent of Americans are fairly certain Alexander Hamilton served as president.

And about 71 percent of Americans are wrong.

Photo: Courtesy Alexander Hamilton — not a president, but 71 percent of those surveyed in a memory study thought he held the nation’s top office.
Photo: Courtesy
Alexander Hamilton — not a president, but 71 percent of those surveyed in a memory study thought he held the nation’s top office.

The “founding father” celebrated in the hit Broadway musical Hamilton was the first secretary of the U.S. Treasury and served as a chief aide to Gen. George Washington. He also founded the New York Post. But he never served as president, contrary to what people told researchers at St. Louis’ Washington University.

“Our studies over the past 40 years show that Americans recall about half the U.S. presidents but the question we explore with this study is whether people know the presidents but are simply unable to access them for recall,” said researcher Henry L. Roediger III. He co-authored with researcher K. Andrew DeSoto a paper recently published in the journal Psychological Science.

Participants were asked to identify past presidents from a list of names that included presidents and non-presidents, including Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin and the lesser-known Thomas Moore.

Study participants were asked to rate their certainty on chief executives from zero to 100.

Overall, the rate for recognizing the names of past presidents was 88 percent. Actual leaders Franklin Pierce and Chester Arthur were recognized less than 60 percent of the time yet about 71 percent remembered Hamilton as a president.

People also mistakenly remembered Benjamin Franklin, John Calhoun and Hubert Humphrey as presidents.

The study adds to an emerging line of research — collective memory or historical memory.

“The false recognition data support the theory that false fame can arise from contextual familiarity,” Roediger said. “And our recall studies show that even the most famous person in America may be forgotten in as short a time as 50–75 years.”

Wisconsin plays key role in music, memory study

Mike Knutson taught himself to play the harmonica as a child, and the 96-year-old sang with his family for most of his life. Even now, as he suffers from dementia, music is an important part of his life thanks to a study looking at the impact of a nationwide music program aimed at helping dementia patients.

The study being led by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is the largest yet on the impact of the Music and Memory program, which is in hundreds of nursing homes across the U.S. and Canada, said program founder Dan Cohen. Similar studies will be conducted in Utah and Ohio.

Researchers are monitoring the responses of 1,500 Alzheimer’s and dementia patients who were given iPods at Wisconsin nursing homes through the program, which was highlighted in a documentary honored at the Sundance Film Festival this year. Their mental state will then be compared to the same number of people in 100 other nursing homes who haven’t received iPods.

Knutson is often sleepy, but he perks up when nurses put headphones on him or when his family sings with him during visits at the Wisconsin Veteran’s Home in Union Grove, south of Milwaukee.

He smiles, taps his feet and gently claps his hands upon hearing big-band music, which is part of his personalized playlist.

“The music really does something to wake him up and help him to be more engaged with what is going on around him,” said his daughter, Barb Knutson, who lives in Madison.

The state and UW-Milwaukee are investing about $300,000 in the program and study, money received through federal funds acquired from nursing home penalties. The program will be expanded to another 150 Wisconsin nursing homes next year.

For the study, nursing homes put together personalized playlists for residents. Researchers then document residents’ interactions, watch sleep patterns, put on wrist monitors that track movement and collect music data.

The study started this summer, and final data should be available by next summer.

“You may see the immediate effects shown on the residents, but we don’t really know if it actually has longer-term effects,” said Jung Kwak, an associate professor of social work at the university.

Researchers hope to determine whether music improves mood and behavior, which residents might benefit and then tailor activities accordingly. They also want to see if music could someday reduce the need for prescription drugs, Kwak and Cohen said.

Cohen, who founded Music and Memory in New York in 2006, said he hopes the Wisconsin study informs the health care system of the program’s benefits and potential cost savings. He said there’s also fear of visiting dementia patients, so he hopes the program will encourage families and friends to visit more often.

“Then (the patients) will feel more alive and won’t feel as isolated in these facilities,” he said.

Study seeks super agers’ secrets to brain health

They’re called “super agers” – men and women who are in their 80s and 90s, but with brains and memories that seem far younger.

Researchers are looking at this rare group in the hope that they may find ways to help protect others from memory loss. And they’ve had some tantalizing findings: Imaging tests have found unusually low amounts of age-related plaques along with more brain mass related to attention and memory in these elite seniors.

“We’re living long but we’re not necessarily living well in our older years and so we hope that the SuperAging study can find factors that are modifiable and that we’ll be able to use those to help people live long and live well,” said study leader Emily Rogalski, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University’s cognitive neurology and Alzheimer’s disease center in Chicago.

The study is still seeking volunteers, but chances are you don’t qualify: Fewer than 10 percent of would-be participants have met study criteria.

“We’ve screened over 400 people at this point and only about 35 of them have been eligible for this study, so it really represents a rare portion of the population,” Rogalski said.

They include an octogenarian attorney, a 96-year-old retired neuroscientist, a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor and an 81-year-old pack-a-day smoker who drinks a nightly martini.

To qualify, would-be participants have to undergo a battery of mental tests. Once enrolled, they undergo periodic imaging scans and other medical tests. They also must be willing to donate their brains after death.

The memory tests include lists of about 15 words. “Super agers can remember at least nine of them 30 minutes later, which is really impressive because often older adults in their 80s can only remember just a couple,” Rogalski said.

Special MRI scans have yielded other remarkable clues, Rogalski said. They show that in super agers, the brain’s cortex, or outer layer, responsible for many mental functions including memory, is thicker than in typical 80- and 90-year-olds. And deep within the brain, a small region called the anterior cingulate, important for attention, is bigger than even in many 50- and 60-year-olds.

The super agers aren’t just different on the inside; they have more energy than most people their age and share a positive, inquisitive outlook. Rogalski said the researchers are looking into whether those traits contribute to brain health.

Other research has linked a positive attitude with overall health. And some studies have suggested that people who are “cognitively active and socially engaged” have a reduced chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but which comes first _ a healthy brain or a great attitude – isn’t known, said Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Snyder said the SuperAging study is an important effort that may help provide some answers.

Edith Stern is among the super agers. The petite woman looks far younger than her 92 years, and is a vibrant presence at her Chicago retirement home, where she acts as a sort of room mother, volunteering in the gift shop, helping residents settle in and making sure their needs are met.

Stern lost most of her family in the Holocaust and takes her work seriously.

“What I couldn’t do for my parents, I try to do for the residents in the home,” she said.

Stern acknowledges she’s different from most people at the home, even many younger residents.

“I am young – inside. And I think that’s the difference,” she said.

“I grasp fast,” she adds. “If people say something, they don’t have to tell me twice. I don’t forget it.”

She’s different in other ways, too.

“When you get old, people are mainly interested in themselves. They talk about the doctor, what hurts,” she said. “You are not so important that you just concentrate on yourself. You have to think about other people.”

Study participant Don Tenbrunsel has a similar mindset. The 85-year-old retired businessman doesn’t think of himself as a super ager. “Neither do my children,” he says, chuckling.

But Tenbrunsel says his memory has been sharp “from the time I was born. My mother used to say, ‘Donald, come sing with me – not because I had a good voice, but because I always knew the words,” he said. “I think I’m just lucky, not only with respect to my memory, but I’m able to get around very well; I walk a lot and I have a pretty good attitude toward life itself.”

Tenbrunsel volunteers several hours a week at a food pantry run by the Chicago church where he is a parishioner. One recent morning in the sun-filled rectory kitchen, he nimbly packaged ham and cheese sandwiches, set out bags of chips and cans of soda, and cheerfully greeted a steady stream of customers.

“Good morning, good to see you,” he said, standing at the pantry’s bright red door. He gave everyone their choice of chips _ a small gesture but important, he said, because it gives them some sense of control over their hard-luck lives.

“I enjoy doing it. I probably get more out of it than I give,” Tenbrunsel said.

Ken Zwiener, of Deerfield, Ill., is another super ager. He had “more than an inkling” he might qualify for the study, and his kids encouraged him to enroll.

“They said, ‘Dad, your brain is the best thing about you,’” the 81-year-old retired businessman recalled.

He’s a golfer and Broadway musical “nut” who created a 300-plus-page computer database of shows. Zwiener uses an iPad, recently went hot-air ballooning and is trying to learn Spanish.

He also pours himself a vodka martini every night and is a pack-a-day cigarette smoker, but says he doesn’t think his habits have made much difference. His healthy brain, he says, may be due to heredity and genes, but Zwiener said he hopes the study comes up with more “scientific insights”.

“My dad lived into his middle 90s and was pretty sharp right up until the day he died,” Zwiener said.

Zwiener’s motivation for joining the study was simple: The best man at his wedding died of Alzheimer’s disease before age 50.

“To lose a mind … is just a terrible way to go,” he said.

On the Web

SuperAging study: http://tinyurl.com/lo75t7b

Alzheimer’s Association: http://www.alz.org