Cognitive Training Helps Older Adults Who Have Some Memory Loss
||New findings could indicate a way for older adults to maintain skills that allow them to carry out daily tasks, stay independent and take charge of their own lives for many years to come.
A new study shows that older adults with pre-existing mild memory impairment benefit just as much as those with normal memory function
from certain forms of cognitive training that don’t rely on memorization. The research was conducted as part of the Advanced Cognitive
Training for Independent and Vital Elderly, or ACTIVE, clinical trial that was cofunded by NINR and NIA. Researchers said these findings, published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological
Society, could indicate a way for older adults to maintain skills that allow them to carry out daily tasks, stay independent and take charge of their own lives for many years to come.
Pheromones Trigger Fighting Between Male Mice
A study funded in part by NIDCD is the first to identify protein pheromones responsible for the aggression response in mice. Published in Nature, the study shows that a family of proteins
commonly found in mouse urine can actually trigger fighting—a strongly exhibited
social behavior—in male mice. Researchers
said that although the pheromones identified
in the study are not produced by humans, the regions of the brain that are tied to behavior
are the same for mice and people. Therefore, this research could contribute to our understanding
of the neural pathways that play a role in human behavior. Much is known about how pheromones work in the insect world, but very little is known about how these chemical cues can influence behavior in mammals and other vertebrates.
Genes and Alcohol Consumption
Scientists supported in part by NIAAA have found that a variant of a gene involved in communication
among brain cells has a direct influence
on alcohol consumption in mice. This finding, published in Genomics, is especially
noteworthy because identifying genes that predispose to alcohol-related behaviors can be very difficult. Scientists don’t know yet whether
a similar gene variant, with a similar effect on alcohol consumption, exists in humans. But if further studies do reveal a similar gene variant
in people, this research could lead to new opportunities for developing drugs to treat alcohol dependence.
The Immune System and the Brain
In yet another mouse study, scientists funded by NIDA found that the immune system helps to prune excess connections between neurons in the developing brains of young mice. Published
in Cell, it’s a finding that sheds new light on a fundamental process and hints at a likely mechanism behind neurodegenerative diseases like glaucoma and Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists
have known for years that the developing brain, which contains vast numbers of synapses between neurons, will prune away inactive connections
during childhood and adolescence, but the immune system’s involvement in this process
was totally unexpected. Researchers said findings like this could provide insight into why a child’s brain is so vulnerable to environmental factors, including addictive drugs.
Smoking and Illicit Drug Use Decline Among Eighth Graders
More NIDA findings: the 2007 Monitoring the Future survey shows a significant decline in smoking and illicit drug use among U.S. eighth graders in the past year. In addition, eighth graders showed a substantial long-term decline in past-year alcohol use, down to 31.8 percent from a peak of 46.8 percent in 1994. And while there were still concerns from the study—including prescription drug use, which remains high, as well as softening attitudes toward MDMA, or ecstasy, and LSD—the 2007 results appear to reflect an ongoing cultural shift among teens and their attitudes about smoking and substance abuse. The survey results were announced at a White House news conference in December.—