Forum Offers an Overview of Current Brain Health Research, Data

Aging Today, July/August 2011 | Go to article overview

Forum Offers an Overview of Current Brain Health Research, Data


The 2011 Aging in America Conference agenda was crowded with enough worthy forum sessions to make attending them all a challenge; but a capacity crowd turned out for ASA's National Forum on Brain Health.

The daylong session, supported by a grant from the MetLife Foundation, featured keynotes from Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Center on Aging, and Dr. Jeffrey Kaye, director of the NIA-Layton Aging & Alzheimer's Disease Center, as well as presentations from the ASA-MetLife Foundation MindAlert program award winner and MindAlert Speakers Bureau.

Dr. Small opened the day, emphasizing the need for preventive treatment when it comes to Alzheimer's disease and other dementias (as genetics play in only a third of the role in getting the disease, the other two thirds falling to lifestyle choices).

He mentioned the need to use scans to detect the onset of dementia earlier, when it might be prevented. Exercise has a large positive effect on preventing dementia, too, with some benefits being found in anti-inflammatories, caffeine use and moderate alcohol consumption. Other well-known healthy habits- stress reduction, good nutrition and ingesting antioxidants and Omega 3 fats- help prevent cognitive decline.

'Tour brain works like your body," said Small, referring to the brain's need for practice and training, and addressing evidence that cognitive training techniques show marked memory benefits lasting five years. Small revealed his "look, snap and connect" method of remembering daily details like names of acquaintances, and spoke about the need for us to moderate our Internet use, lest our multi-tasking foster memory lapses.

The Brain and Technology

Dr. Jeffrey Kaye, director of the Layton Aging and Alzheimer's Disease Center, and director of the Oregon Center for Aging and Technology, followed with a presentation that had a different take. With 76% of baby boomers regularly online, Kaye proposes that we make use of at-home technology to assess our brain function.

Making use of existing, standard inhome technologies, like phones and televisions, to keep track of our cognitive health can mimic clinical trials and give those in the aging services industry valuable information about how we age as our cognitive skills decline, and what to do about it.

Kaye also stressed activity as key to preventing cognitive decline, and mentioned that "active" octogenarians still spend 22 hours a day at home.

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Forum Offers an Overview of Current Brain Health Research, Data
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