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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Kids With Learning Disorders Might Not Benefit From Memory Training Programs

Children with disorders, such as dyslexia or attention-deficit/hyperactivity, are not likely to benefit from working memory training, say researchers. 

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Oslo and University College London and published online in The British Journal of Developmental Psychology, also found that memory training tasks have limited effect on healthy children and adults seeking to improve their cognitive skills or do better in school.

Monica Melby-Lervåg, PhD, of the University of Oslo, and lead author of the study, explained:

"The success of working memory training programs is often based on the idea that you can train your brain to perform better, using repetitive memory trials, much like lifting weights builds muscle mass.

However, this analysis shows that simply loading up the brain with training exercises will not lead to better performance outside of the tasks presented within these tests."

Working memory allows an individual to hold and use a limited amount of information in their head for a short amount of time. Tasks designed to enhance working memory usually involve trying to get the person to retain the information presented to them as they perform distracting activities. For instance, participants may be presented with a series of numbers simultaneously on a computer screen. The screen then presents a new number and prompts participants to recall the number immediately preceding. 

In this study, the team analyzed 23 different studies that involved young children, children with cognitive impairments, such as ADHA, and healthy adults. The studies were either experiments or randomized controlled trials and had some sort of working memory treatment and a control group.

The researchers found that although working memory training enhanced participants performance on tasks related to the training itself, the training did not affect the participants attention, verbal skills, reading or arithmetic.

Melby-Lervåg, explained: "In other words, the training may help you improve your short-term memory when it's related to the task implemented in training but it won't improve reading difficulties or help you pay more attention in school."

Several commercial, computer-based working memory training programs have been developed in recent years in order to help students suffering from poor academic performance, dyslexia, language disorders, ADHA, or other issues. Some of the programs also claim to increase people's IQs. 

The programs, used globally in clinics and schools, mainly involve tasks in which participants are given many challenging memory tests. 

Melby-Lervåg concluded: 

"In the light of such evidence, it seems very difficult to justify the use of working memory training programs in relation to the treatment of reading and language disorders. Our findings also cast strong doubt on claims that working memory training is effective in improving cognitive ability and scholastic attainment."

Written By Grace Rattue 
Copyright: Medical News Today 
Courtesy Source: 

Language Skills In Stroke Patients Improve With Magnetic Treatment

A study by The University of Queensland has revealed that language skills of individuals who survived a stroke with aphasia could be improved with magnetic stimulation of the brain. The study was conducted by Dr. Caroline Barwood, who recently completed her PhD at the University of Queensland School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Barwood discovered that the language skills of stroke patients following Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) were significantly improved. 

TMS is a non-invasive technique that aims to target activity in the brain in order to help restructuring brain areas with the goal of changing language behaviors. 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Eating nuts may help combat diabetes and heart disease

EATING nuts may help combat diabetes and heart disease, research has found.
A study showed that those who ate tree nuts, including cashews, walnuts and pistachios, were slimmer and had low BMIs than non consumers.
They had higher levels of good cholesterol and lower levels of proteins linked to inflammation and heart disease and were also five per cent less likely to suffer metabolic syndrome - a group of risk factors which together can cause stroke, diabetes and heart conditions.
Professor Carol O'Neil, of Louisiana State University, said: "One of the more interesting findings was the fact that tree nut consumers had lower body weight, as well as lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference compared to nonconsumers.
"The mean weight, BMI, and waist circumference were 4.19 pounds, 0.9kg/m2 and 0.83 inches lower in consumers than non-consumers, respectively."
Her team looked at data from more than 13,000 men and women with 'tree nut consumers' classed as those who ate more than quarter of an ounce a day.
They were five per cent less likely to have metabolic syndrome and also had a lower prevalence of four risk factors for metabolic syndrome: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high fasting glucose (blood sugar) levels and low high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels.
Eating nuts was also associated with greater intake of whole grains and fruits and lower levels of alcohol an added sugar.
Dr O'Neil said: "Tree nuts should be an integral part of a healthy diet and encouraged by health professionals-especially registered dietitians."
Maureen Ternus, Executive Director of the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation, said: "In light of these new data and the fact that the FDA has issued a qualified health claim for nuts and heart disease with a recommended intake of 1.5 ounces of nuts per day.
"We need to educate people about the importance of including tree nuts in the diet."

Monday, 11 June 2012

Three cups of coffee a day 'could stave off Alzheimer's disease

DRINKING three cups of coffee daily could help keep Alzheimer's disease at bay, according to the results of a new study.
Research showed people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or memory loss, who had high levels of caffeine in their blood did not go on to development dementia.
The findings indicate caffeine, the source of which was mainly coffee, offers some protection against the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Scientists at the University of South Florida and the University of Miami monitored 124 people aged between 65 and 88, testing their blood caffeine levels and their cognitive ability for two to four years.
Caffeine levels among those who developed dementia were 51 per cent lower than those who did not.
"Coffee would appear to be the major or perhaps only source of caffeine for such stable MCI (mild cognitive impairment) patients," the authors of the study wrote.
"This case-control study provides the first direct evidence that caffeine/coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of dementia or delayed onset, particularly for those who already have MCI."
The researchers involved previously established a link between caffeine and the delayed development of Alzheimer's disease through studies of mice.
The most recent evidence showed no one with MCI who developed Alzheimer's disease had blood caffeine levels of 1200 ng/ml – the equivalent of several cups of a coffee.
"This study provides an intriguing association between plasma caffeine levels in MCI patients and their ensuing progression (or not) to dementia," the study added.
"High plasma caffeine levels in MCI patients at the beginning of a 2–4 year cognitive assessment period were associated with complete avoidance of progression to dementia over that period."
According to the Alzheimer's Society, between 10 to 15 per cent of people with MCI go on to develop dementia.
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's a positive bit of research.
"But we shouldn't be rushing out and assuming drinking a couple of cups of coffee will stop us getting Alzheimer's. The key issue is to have more studies like this to check out the findings."
Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer's Research, added: "I think we're still at the point, to use the jigsaw metaphor, where we've got a lot of pieces but we still don't know how they fit together.
"Many people say we are where cancer was 30 years ago with the level of knowledge and investment.
"What is needed is a sustained and significant investment into research over a long period of time."
- Donna Bowater

Sunday, 10 June 2012

New hope for arthritis patients with treatment four times more likely to halt progression

Clinical trial results described as "striking and exciting" could lead to new treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis.
The antibody drug tocilizumab was almost four times more likely to halt progression of the condition than the most widely prescribed alternative.
It also achieved significantly greater reduction in disease signs and symptoms after six months.
Scientists compared tocilizumab, marketed as RoActemra, with the "anti-TNF" drug adalimumab (Humira).
The drugs were tested in a group of 326 patients unable to take the mainstay treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), methotrexate (MTX)
MTX is ruled out for roughly a third of patients, many of whom suffer unbearable side effects such as vomiting, hair loss and mouth ulcers.
Currently, such individuals generally move onto anti-TNF drugs, which target a molecule called tumour necrosis factor that promotes inflammation.
Tocilizumab works in a completely different way by targeting another inflammatory protein, interleukin six (IL-6).
Consultant rheumatologist Professor Paul Emery, from the University of Leeds, who took part in the Adacta trial, said: "These results are impressive and important for the 30% of patients with RA who cannot take methotrexate.
"In RA, disease remission is the goal of therapy.
"However, for varied reasons, many patients fail to achieve this goal.
"Adacta, which compared two active biologics as monotherapies (in methotrexate intolerant patients), has produced striking results and the results help in choosing the right drug for the right patient."
The findings were presented in Berlin at Eular, the annual meeting of the European Congress of Rheumatology.
Professor John Isaacs, a rheumatology expert from the University of Newcastle, said: "These results are very important and exciting.
"For the tens of thousands of patients in the UK that can't take methotrexate, RoActemra will offer them an increased chance of remission, which is the ultimate goal of rheumatoid arthritis treatment.
"This study is the first time a treatment has gone 'head to head' with an anti-TNF in this setting, and to show a significant increase in patients achieving remission is very impressive."
At £9,500 per patient per year, RoActemra costs about the same as Humira.
The NHS cost-effectiveness watchdog Nice (National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence) has already approved of RoActemra when combined with methotrexate.
The new results may lead to the drug being given to larger numbers of patients on its own.
An estimated 646,000 people in the UK have RA, a painful and disabling condition caused by the immune system attacking the joints.
Of those newly diagnosed, around a half will be unable to work within 10 years.
Ailsa Bosworth, chief executive of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, said: "With any medical condition, remission is the number one target. Curing the person of their illness and enabling them to get on with their life is the ultimate goal.
"For those with rheumatoid arthritis however, there is no cure, they will always have rheumatoid arthritis. Remission for those with RA does not mean the disease has gone, it just means it is better controlled.
"The key to the most successful outcome is an early diagnosis and early treatment with the most effective drug(s)."
- John von Radowitz

Positive images and feedback help depression patients: Study

 technique that helps people control activity in a specific part of the brain can help ease depression, British researchers have found.
In the study, eight patients with depression were shown pictures that were positive, negative and neutral in nature, while they were undergoing an MRI scan. This helped researchers identify the areas in the brain that were processing the positive emotions.
The patients were then told to increase the activity in this area of their brain by looking at images that gave them positive emotions. During the test, the patients were given feedback about how well they were doing through a technology called neurofeedback.
David Linden of Cardiff University said this is the first time neurofeedback has been used to treat depression.
Using this technique, the researchers found all patients were able to control the activity in the targeted emotion networks. Their depression improved significantly after the interventions. Their medication dose wasn't changed during the study.
"The findings of the initial pilot study are preliminary and further research is required to assess the possible clinical benefits to patients. We do not expect this to become a standalone treatment tool, but rather a potential part of comprehensive treatment packages," Linden said in a release about the study.
The research was published in the journal PLoS ONE.