Hormesis, environment and lifestyle

“Hormesis as a mechanism responsible for the health benefits of a variety of lifestyle and environmental factors” – Mark P. Mattson

Kattenstroth and coauthors have recently shown that a regular schedule of multi-year amateur dancing in old age not only promotes posture and balance but also has a wide range of beneficial effects on reaction times, motor behavior, and tactile and cognitive performance compared to a matched non-dancer control group.

Tactile performance in dancers (intervention group, IG) versus non dancers (control group, CG)








Kattenstroth, J. C., Kolankowska, I., Kalisch, T., & Dinse, H. R. (2010). Superior sensory, motor, and cognitive performance in elderly individuals with multi-year dancing activities. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 2.

How to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Q: How can I prevent getting Alzheimer’s Disease? My grandparents on my mom’s side have it and I just want to dramatically decrease my chances of getting it.

A: There is plenty of evidence that life style is linked to or associated with the risks of getting Alzheimer’s . A short list of features reducing the risks looks like this:
1. Being active, socially, physically and intellectually, as early in life as possible.
2. Eating right for example, Mediterranean style.

By the way, this recommendation concerns not only Alzheimer’s prevention but general neuroprotection and metabolic correction.

Recently, researchers figure out quite interesting details. The interviewed a large cohort of ageing people with a simple questionnaire and years later, checked out, which 25% of them got the biggest chance o f the disease and which 25% had the slimmest chance. They simple asked how many times a day or a week people habitually had certain foods. Some foods didn’t seem to influence the outcome, but some did.

Here is a short summary. The foods most successfully decreasing the chances of the disease, habitually eaten as many times a week or day as indicated:

Green leafy vegetables    >6 times a week
Other vegetables        >1 times a day
Nuts          >5 times a week
Berries         >2 times a week
Beans          >3 times a week
Whole grains       >3 times a day
Fish          >1 times a week
Poultry         >2 times a week
Olive oil         if it is the main oil for cooking/dressing
Wine          1 time a day

The foods most seriously increasing the chances:

Red meats         >4 times a week
Butter and stick margarine   >1 Tbs a day
Cheese          >1 time a week
Pastries and sweets      >5 times a week
Fried or fast food      >1 time a week

Source: Morris, M. C., Tangney, C. C., Wang, Y., Sacks, F. M., Bennett, D. A., & Aggarwal, N. T. (2015). MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, ahead of print

As to physical activities, it is advised to work out 30 minutes daily or more. Best results, however, were reported for 1 hour of moderate activity (walking/strolling, gardening, cooking, shopping, etc.) plus 20-30 minutes of more intense but not exhausting activities, of which strength/resistant training  is now recognised as the most effective.

It is important to include new activities requiring memorization of movement patterns like dance, Tai Chi and the like as well as activities emphasizing mindfulness.

Can my leisure activities protect my cognitive functions?

The “cognitive reserve hypothesis”  is a  clinically relevant model explaining the phenomenon of possibility to reverse and prevent age-related cognitive decline. Contrary to the rather mechanical transfer of biological principles depicting the post-reproductive stage of life history as evolutionary insignificant and thus lacking viable adaptation mechanisms, the cognitive reserve model proposes that the evolved cognitive ability in hominid may be linked to evolutionary selection for increased lifespan, which, in its own turn potentially is capable of providing cognitive health as an attribute of healthy aging.



Source: Stern, Y. (2002). What is cognitive reserve? Theory and research application of the reserve concept. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society,8(03), 448-460.


Must watch! 60-year-old high school dance teacher Shirley Clements performs with her students at a hip-hop dance competition.

Shirley Clements, 60, dances hip-hop

It’s not about age; it’s about attitude. Watch as 60-year-old high school dance teacher Shirley Clements performs with her students at a hip-hop dance competition and smashes all kinds of stereotypes.

Insulin, glucagon, Alzheimer’s and diabetes

What do Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Type 2 diabetes have in common? For one thing, they are both linked to oxidative brain damage and accelerated aging.

One of the hormones controlling metabolism of insulin* and glucose, Glucagon**-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), is also a potent neuroprotector. Its presence in neurons of the hippocampus is linked to better learning. A synthetic analog of GLP-1, Exenatide, a drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes, accelerated neurogenesis, improved synaptic plasticity and cognitive performancee in animal models. These effects make Exenatide very attractive candidate to treat AD. But how exactly does it work in this case?

Interestingly, Exenatide worked very well in the mice mutants imitating familial AD, but not so well in the mice mutant reproducing synaptic dysfunction in age-dependent AD. This might meat that unlike the age-dependent and familial forms of AD differs in the mechanisms of energy deficits. Previously, insulin has been shown to improve cognitive performance in humans suffering from age-related AD.

Source: Cell Death and Disease (2013) 4, e612; doi:10.1038/cddis.2013.139

*  Insulin: hormone decreasing concentration of glucose in the blood

** Glucagon: hormone increasing concentration of glucose in the blood

A pleasant, romantic sadness

In general, sad music is thought to cause us to experience sadness, which is considered an unpleasant emotion. As a result, the question arises as to why we listen to sad music if it evokes sadness. One possible answer to this question is that we may actually feel positive emotions when we listen to sad music. This suggestion may appear to be counterintuitive; however, in this study, by dividing musical emotion into perceived emotion and felt emotion, we investigated this potential emotional response to music. We hypothesized that felt and perceived emotion may not actually coincide in this respect: sad music would be perceived as sad, but the experience of listening to sad music would evoke positive emotions. A total of 44 participants listened to musical excerpts and provided data on perceived and felt emotions by rating 62 descriptive words or phrases related to emotions on a scale that ranged from 0 (not at all) to 4 (very much). The results revealed that the sad music was perceived to be more tragic, whereas the actual experiences of the participants listening to the sad music induced them to feel more romantic, more blithe, and less tragic emotions than they actually perceived with respect to the same music. Thus, the participants experienced ambivalent emotions when they listened to the sad music. After considering the possible reasons that listeners were induced to experience emotional ambivalence by the sad music, we concluded that the formulation of a new model would be essential for examining the emotions induced by music and that this new model must entertain the possibility that what we experience when listening to music is vicarious emotion.

Citation: Kawakami A, Furukawa K, Katahira K and Okanoya K (2013) Sad music induces pleasant emotion. Front. Psychol4:311. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00311

Copyright © 2013 Kawakami, Furukawa, Katahira and Okanoya. This is an open-access article.

10 things about Alzheimer’s to remember

If people with dementia shared their thoughts and feelings with us, these 10 things might be some of the many things they’d point out.

From Esther Heerema, MSW, Alzheimer’s/Dementia Expert at About.com


  • They are not guilty of their condition!
  • They deserve a little respect
  • They don’t need you to speak very loudly or too slowly
  • Boredom’s not a burden they should bear
  • They are scared and need reassurance
  • They might forget your name but not not your importance to them
  • Their nonverbal perception remains intact longer
  • Their behavior means something for them, however difficult it might look


Religion and brain health

The way you become a religious believer can influence your brain health later in life

Owen AD, Hayward RD, Koenig HG, Steffens DC, Payne ME (2011) Religious Factors and Hippocampal Atrophy in Late Life. PLoS ONE 6(3): e17006. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017006

Despite a growing interest in the ways spiritual beliefs and practices are reflected in brain activity, there have been relatively few studies using neuroimaging data to assess potential relationships between religious factors and structural neuroanatomy. This study examined prospective relationships between religious factors and hippocampal volume change using high-resolution MRI data of a sample of 268 older adults. Religious factors assessed included life-changing religious experiences, spiritual practices, and religious group membership. Hippocampal volumes were analyzed using the GRID program, which is based on a manual point-counting method and allows for semi-automated determination of region of interest volumes. Significantly greater hippocampal atrophy was observed for participants reporting a life-changing religious experience. Significantly greater hippocampal atrophy was also observed from baseline to final assessment among born-again Protestants, Catholics, and those with no religious affiliation, compared with Protestants not identifying as born-again. These associations were not explained by psychosocial or demographic factors, or baseline cerebral volume. Hippocampal volume has been linked to clinical outcomes, such as depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s Disease. The findings of this study indicate that hippocampal atrophy in late life may be uniquely influenced by certain types of religious factors.

Copyright: © 2011 Owen et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.