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    • My wife volunteers for an intense brain study at Stanford (SAMS) that involves MRIs, spinal taps and tough memory tests. Yesterday they hosted the almost 200 volunteers for a half-day event to see the data and hear what the scientists think. We got to ask a ton of questions.

      The first slide blew me away and I was riveted from then on. By the age of 40, associative memory has dropped almost in half on average, but for some people it's 90% and some 10%. What?! 🤯

      Associative memory is the ability to learn and remember unrelated things. That would include a name and a face.

    • Of course, the auditorium of volunteers erupted in questions right away, because everyone wanted to know how to stop losing their minds. Professor Anthony Wagner, who leads the Stanford Memory Lab, and all the scientists involved were incredibly patient with us as we stayed for hours and asked questions of individual researchers in the halls. I. Loved. It!

      Notes I took:

      1. Genes seem to play a minor role in Alzheimer's.

      2. The brain is plastic and adapts.

      3. Learning has protective powers on the brain.

      4. High distraction activities and environments cause the brain to underperform.

      5. Cardiovascular fitness and diet are important. They didn't list specifics except to say what is good for the heart is good for the brain.

      6. Sleep hygiene is important for attention.

      7. Stress/adrenaline enable learning up to a point but the brain underperforms past that point.

      8. One reason recall declines with age is the buildup of memories so for each cue there are multiple competing memories.

      9. Cues are important for recall. If you try to recall your high school experiences, going there will cause a flood of them to come back that you couldn't recall without the cues.

      10. Science still doesn't know what causes Alzheimer's. The buildup of plaques is correlated and predictive to an extent. The plaques start building 20 years before symptoms. A significant number of people have a buildup of plaques but do not experience symptoms.

      11. All Alzheimer's drug trials have met with failure.

      My takeaways: exercise, eat well, sleep well, learn as if our realities depend on it.

    • Thanks for posting this Chris, loved your notes!

      I was very interested in the comment that "cardiovascular fitness and diet are important" - especially since my mother's cardiologist and neurologist have both stressed that walking is important.

    • Thanks, Denise. I know you know because we met there for lunch, but for everyone else, I attended the Brain Mind Summit at MIT a month or two ago. At that conference there was more time to talk specifics about diet.

      Before every break and meal, they would point out that the food served was brain healthy. I was struck by how good the scientists looked — generally slender and fit. My guess is they are extra motivated because they know how bad it is to lose your memory.

      Here’s one of the lunches:

    • As far as aerobic exercise goes, in this meeting they didn't talk specifics, only about how important it is. But this article from Harvard seems to indicate walking is great, but maybe higher heart rate, higher sweat rates are even better:

    • ...because everyone wanted to know how to stop losing their minds.

      That is sort of funny and sorta scary. I have loosely read reports over the years how reading and even puzzles on a regular basis is critical brain health. Was that discussed? I play spades on my phone before I got to bed to relax but as easy as it is, it does require "thinking".

    • We didn’t talk about puzzles, but they were emphatic that learning and education are protective of brain performance.

      I’ve seen mixed results of studies on puzzles and games wrt cognition. My own hypothesis is that if the game has a storyline that forces you to learn new things, it’s helpful. If it becomes a form of relaxation like solitaire where you can zone out but not learn something new, then maybe not, dunno.

    • One thing I didn’t mention is that the drug trials didn’t delay the progression of dementia, they accelerated it and had to be aborted. The thinking was perhaps the drugs designed to dissolve the plaques were harming neurons too.

      That seems to be in line with some other classes of drugs. For example, some anti-depressants seem to dramatically increase the odds of dementia:

    • I can count on hand's fingers amount of pills taken per year, and usually avoid taking even one aspirin, and so I hope that will help me keep my mind sane for as long as possible.

      There seem to be a variety of approaches to the classic adage..

      What I fear most is the dementia issue can sneak up on someone, and obviously there is no way to tell when that happens. How could the mind know it's losing itself?

    • Yea, even tho I get my "free" medical at the VA, my really nice assigned primary care physiscian always wants me to take supplements.....I think it just so there is some sort of paper trail for her...instead of excercise more and lost weight you fat bastard. hahahahahah Thus, I am with you that I am relatively pretty healthy because I must have decent genes and I don't try supplement my standard config artificially if possible.

    • It's really a pity that physicians have to play by the unwritten laws of the not so free market. This in turn has completely robbed me not of trust in the medical science and it's amazing potential to help us live longer, healthier, but in "the system". Call me Mr. Paranoid even though I would love to actually see a non biased care provider just for the sake of a check up (and I have good insurance!),