Saturday, May 17, 2008

For a Sharp Brain, Stimulation

[13 May 2008 - New York Times] AMERICANS may worry about heart disease, stroke and diabetes, but they downright dread Alzheimer’s disease, a recent survey found. For good reason. One in eight adults over 65 is affected by the disease. Those who are spared know they may end up with the burden of caring for a parent or a spouse who is affected. Even though the number of older adults with dementias is rising rapidly, only a few drugs that have been approved to treat symptoms are on the market, and they slow down the disease but do not cure it. Researchers, however, are more optimistic than ever about the potential of the aging brain, because recent evidence has challenged long-held beliefs by demonstrating that the brain can grow new nerve cells. "For a long time, we held the assumption that we’re born with all the nerve cells we’re ever going to have, and that the brain is not capable of generating new ones — that once these cells die we’re unable to replace them," said Molly V. Wagster, chief of the Neuropsychology of Aging branch of the National Institute on Aging. "Those assumptions have been challenged and put by the wayside." ... "Another thing that’s important as people get older is to maintain flexible attitudes and be willing to try new things," said K. Warner Schaie, who in 1956 started the Seattle Longitudinal Study, which follows the psychological development of participants through adulthood. "You have to expect things will shift over time and won’t be the same as when you were young. Those who manage to roll with the punches, and enjoy change rather than fighting it, tend to do well." More

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