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Cardiovascular fitness, cortical plasticity, and aging. - PubMed - NCBI

Cardiovascular fitness is thought to offset declines in cognitive performance, but little is known about the cortical mechanisms that underlie these changes in humans. Research using animal models shows that aerobic training increases cortical capillary supplies, the number of synaptic connections, and the development of new neurons. The end result is a brain that is more efficient, plastic, and adaptive, which translates into better performance in aging animals. Here, in two separate experiments, we demonstrate for the first time to our knowledge, in humans that increases in cardiovascular fitness results in increased functioning of key aspects of the attentional network of the brain during a cognitively challenging task. Specifically, highly fit (Study 1) or aerobically trained (Study 2) persons show greater task-related activity in regions of the prefrontal and parietal cortices that are involved in spatial selection and inhibitory functioning, when compared with low-fit (Study 1) or nonaerobic control (Study 2) participants. Additionally, in both studies there exist groupwise differences in activation of the anterior cingulate cortex, which is thought to monitor for conflict in the attentional system, and signal the need for adaptation in the attentional network. These data suggest that increased cardiovascular fitness can affect improvements in the plasticity of the aging human brain, and may serve to reduce both biological and cognitive senescence in humans.

Capitalizing on cortical plasticity: influence of physical activity on cognition and brain function. - PubMed - NCBI

In this review, we evaluate the hypothesis that physical activity and exercise might serve to protect, and also enhance, cognitive and brain function across the adult lifespan.

Running triggers brain repair and extends life in mouse model - Medical News Today

The researchers allowed some of the mice the opportunity to run by installing a wheel into their cages. Surprisingly, the mice given the opportunity to run lived more than 12 months (a relatively normal lifespan for a mouse). On top of their extended lives, the running mice also put on more weight and achieved a better sense of balance, compared with their less active siblings. "We saw that the existing neurons became better insulated and more stable. This means that the unhealthy neurons worked better and the previously damaged circuits in the brain became stronger and more functional." Dr. Matías Alvarez-Saavedra, lead author However, these changes were reversed if the opportunity to exercise was taken away. Once the running wheel was removed, the symptoms returned, and their lives were once more cut short.

Meb Keflezighi, Bernard Lagat, and the Secret to Running Forever - The New Yorker

“There are only two ‘secrets,’ ” Joyner told me, when I asked how a runner can continue to succeed until age forty and beyond. “Keep your VO2 max up by doing intervals, and don’t get injured.”

Research shows certain genes, in healthy environments, can lengthen lifespan -- ScienceDaily

The researchers found that the dopamine D2 receptor gene (D2R) significantly influences lifespan, body weight and locomotor activity, but only when combined with an enriched environment that included social interaction, sensory and cognitive stimulation and, most critically, exercise.

Beyond Resveratrol: The Anti-Aging NAD Fad - Scientific American Blog Network

While resveratrol has hogged the anti-aging spotlight over the past decade, unsung researchers in places like Oxford, Miss., have quietly shown that pterostilbene is a kind of extra-potent version of resveratrol. The pterostilbene molecule is nearly identical to resveratrol's except for a couple of differences that make it more "bioavailable" (animal studies indicate that about four times as much ingested pterostilbene gets into the bloodstream as resveratrol). Test-tube and rodent studies also suggest that pterostilbene is more potent than resveratrol when it comes to improving brain function, warding off various kinds of cancer and preventing heart disease. Elysium isn't the only pterostilbene vendor. In fact, ChromaDex also offers pterostilbene for supplements separately from Niagen.

Meditators have younger brains

The researchers used a computer programme that they created previously – it was trained on brain scans taken from hundreds of people to recognise what brains of different ages typically look like, in terms of amounts of grey matter, white matter, and cerebral spinal fluid. For the new study, the same programme analysed the brains of 50 experienced meditators (average age 51, with an average of 20 years meditation experience) and the brains of 50 healthy, non-meditators (also average age 51) and it produced a figure for each person saying how old their brain was in terms of its physical condition, as compared with the actual age of the person. Using this approach, the group of meditators had brains that were 7.5 years younger than the control group, on average. […]As a final aside, the researchers also noted that their female participants had more youthful brains than men – at age 50, they appeared three years younger, on average.

Fruit flies live longer on lithium

The benefits of lithium were also seen when it was used as a transient and one-off treatment. Flies that received a one-off dose near the end of their lives lived a maximum of 13% longer and young flies given low doses of lithium chloride for 15 days before switching to a control for the remainder of their lives also lived longer. "We studied the responses of thousands of flies in different conditions to monitor the effects of lithium and how it extends life. We found low doses not only prolong life but also shield the body from stress and block fat production for flies on a high sugar diet. Low doses also protect against the harmful effects of higher, toxic doses of lithium and other substances such as the pesticide paraquat," said co-author Dr Ivana Bjedov from the UCL Cancer Institute.

Exercise strengthens your nerves too

Unsurprisingly, the elite masters athletes’ legs were much stronger than the legs of the other volunteers, by an average of about 25 percent. The athletes had about 14 percent more total muscle mass than the control group. More interesting to the researchers, the athletes also had almost 30 percent more motor units in their leg muscle tissue, and these units were functioning better than those of people in the sedentary group. In the control group, many of the electrical messages from the motor neuron to the muscle showed signs of “jitter and jiggle,” which are actual scientific terms for signals that stutter and degrade before reaching the muscle fiber. Such weak signaling often indicates a motor neuron that is approaching death. In essence, the sedentary elderly people had fewer motor units in their muscles, and more of the units that remained seemed to be feeling their age than in the athletes’ legs.

Clearing the Body's Retired Cells Slows Aging and Extends Life

In 2011, the team developed a way of singling out and removing those cells. Senescent cells are characterized by a protein called p16. Baker and van Deursen genetically engineered their fast-aging mice so that they would destroy all their p16-bearing cells when they received a specific drug. The results were dramatic: The senescent cells disappeared, and though the rodents still died earlier, they were bigger, fitter, and healthier when they did. Even old mice, whose bodies had started to decline, showed improvements.

Brain levels of vitamin B12 decrease with age and are prematurely low in people with autism and schizophrenia -- ScienceDaily

An active form of B12 called methylcobalamin, or methyl B12, supports normal brain development by its control through a process known as epigenetic regulation of gene expression. Remarkably, the brain level of methyl B12 was found to be more than 10 times lower in healthy elderly people than in healthy younger people. A lower than normal level of methyl B12 in the brain could adversely affect neurodevelopment in younger years and could disrupt learning and memory later in life. Both autism and schizophrenia are associated with oxidative stress, which also plays an important role in aging, and oxidative stress may underlie the decreased brain B12 levels observed in this study. The findings suggest the need for further research to determine if the use of supplemental methyl B12 and antioxidants like glutathione could help prevent oxidative stress and be useful in treating these conditions.

Couples' quality of life linked even when one partner dies

In previous work, Bourassa and colleagues had found evidence of synchrony, or interdependence, between partners' quality of life, finding that a person's cognitive functioning or health influences not only their own well-being but also the well-being of their partner. Bourassa and colleagues wondered whether this interdependence continues even when one of the partners passes away. To find out, the researchers turned to the multinational, representative Study of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), an ongoing research project with over 80,000 aging adult participants across 18 European countries and Israel. Specifically, they examined data from 546 couples in which one partner had died during the study period and data from 2566 couples in which both partners were still living. As one might expect, the researchers found that participants' quality of life earlier in the study predicted their quality of life later. And the data also provided evidence for interdependence between partners -- a participant's quality of life earlier in the study was associated with his or her partner's quality of life later. Intriguingly, the results revealed interdependence between partners even when one partner died during the study; the association remained even after Bourassa and colleagues accounted for other factors that might have played a role, such as participants' health, age, and years married.

Life-extending hormone bolsters the body's immune function -- ScienceDaily

A hormone that extends lifespan in mice by 40% is produced by specialized cells in the thymus gland, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers. The team also found that increasing the levels of this hormone, called FGF21, protects against the loss of immune function that comes with age.

Having more children slows down aging process -- ScienceDaily

"The slower pace of telomere shortening found in the study participants who have more children however, may be attributed to the dramatic increase in estrogen, a hormone produced during pregnancy," says Nepomnaschy who also spearheads the Maternal and Child Health Laboratory at the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences. "Estrogen functions as a potent antioxidant that protects cells against telomere shortening."

Circadian rhythm of genes in brain changes with aging, research shows

A 24-hour circadian rhythm controls nearly all brain and body processes, such as the sleep/wake cycle, metabolism, alertness and cognition,[…]"Studies have reported that older adults tend to perform complex cognitive tasks better in the morning and get worse through the day," Dr. McClung said. "We know also that the circadian rhythm changes with aging, leading to awakening earlier in the morning, fewer hours of sleep and less robust body temperature rhythms."[…] Using the information they had about the time of death, they identified 235 core genes that make up the molecular clock in this part of the brain. "As we expected, younger people had that daily rhythm in all the classic 'clock' genes," Dr. McClung said. "But there was a loss of rhythm in many of these genes in older people, which might explain some of the alterations that occur in sleep, cognition and mood in later life."

Protein that boosts memory (and erases bad memories?) identified

In an earlier study, the Heidelberg scientists learned that there are reduced levels of Dnmt3a2 protein in the brains of older mice. When the elderly animals were injected with viruses that produce this protein, their memory capacity improved. "Now we have found that increasing the Dnmt3a2 level in the brains of younger mice also boosts their cognitive ability," explains Prof. Bading. In a number of different long-term memory tests, including classic Pavlovian conditioning, the scientists were able to demonstrate that mice with more Dnmt3a2 on board performed considerably better.

Still a champion runner at 80: Do elite athletes have an anti-aging secret in their muscles? -- ScienceDaily

This study suggests that aging is associated with decreased muscle quality regardless of physical activity status, according to Power. However, other studies have shown that muscle fibers can be arranged in a variety of ways to optimize strength, speed and power of the whole muscle, Power says, so there are many structural ways to compensate for the reduced performance at the fiber level to maintain performance at the whole muscle level.

Walking faster or longer linked to significant cardiovascular benefits in older adults -- ScienceDaily

Adults who walked at a pace faster than three miles per hour (mph) had a 50%, 53%, 50% lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and total CVD, respectively, compared to those who walked at a pace of less than two mph. Those who walked an average of seven blocks per day or more had a 36%, 54% and 47% lower risk of CHD, stroke and total CVD, respectively, compared to those who walked up to five blocks per week.

Fitter legs linked to a 'fitter' brain

Thinking, learning and memory were measured at both the beginning and end of the study and it was found that leg power was a better predictor of cognitive change than any other lifestyle factors tested. Generally, the twin who had more leg power at the start of the study sustained their cognition better and had fewer brain changes associated with ageing measured after ten years.

Does Exercise Slow the Aging Process? - The New York Times

Specifically, someone who participated in a single activity, earning them a 1, was about 3 percent less likely to have very short telomeres than someone who didn’t exercise at all. That risk declined more substantially if someone exercised more. People who reported two types of exercise were 24 percent less likely to have short telomeres; three types of exercise were 29 percent less likely; and those who had participated in all four types of activities were 59 percent less likely to have very short telomeres. Interestingly, these associations were strongest among people between the ages of 40 and 65, the researchers found, suggesting that middle age may be a key time to begin or maintain an exercise program if you wish to keep telomeres from shrinking

Friendship as an idiom

Hanging out with a set of lifelong best friends can be annoying, because the years of inside jokes and references often make their communication unintelligible to outsiders. But this sort of shared language is part of what makes friendships last. In the longitudinal study, the researchers were also able to predict friends’ future closeness by how well they performed on a word-guessing game in 1983. (The game was similar to Taboo, in that one partner gave clues about a word without actually saying it, while the other guessed.) “Such communication skill and mutual understanding may help friends successfully transition through life changes that threaten friendship stability,” the study reads. Friends don’t necessarily need to communicate often, or intricately, just similarly.

In women 65-75, lifting twice a week has big impact on brain, balance

Some began a supervised, once-weekly program of light upper- and lower-body weight training. A second group undertook the same weight-training routine but twice per week. And the third group, acting as a control, started a twice-weekly regimen of stretching and balance training. All of the women continued their assigned exercise routines for a year. At the end of that time, their brains were scanned again and their walking ability re-assessed. The results were alternately sobering and stirring. The women in the control group, who had concentrated on balance and flexibility, showed worrying progression in the number and size of the lesions in their white matter and in the slowing of their gaits. So did the women who had weight trained once per week. But those who had lifted weights twice per week displayed significantly less shrinkage and tattering of their white matter than the other women. Their lesions had grown and multiplied somewhat, but not nearly as much. They also walked more quickly and smoothly than the women in the other two groups.

Five day 'fasting' diet slows down ageing and may add years to life - Telegraph

“Strict fasting is hard for people to stick to, and it can also be dangerous, so we developed a complex diet that triggers the same effects in the body,' said Professor Valter Longo, USC Davis School of Gerontology and director of the USC Longevity Institute. “I've personally tried both, and the fasting mimicking diet is a lot easier and also a lot safer. “I think based on the markers for ageing and disease in humans it has the potential to add a number of years of life but more importantly to have a major impact on diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other age-related disease.”

Focusing the Brain on Better Vision -

as people aged, the random firing of neurons in the brain’s visual system increased, creating a kind of internal noise. At the same time, the aging brain struggles harder with external visual noise, such as snowflakes in a blizzard that obscure words on a road sign. The latest study’s exercises were designed to train adults to filter such external visual noise so they could better discern edges of contrast. “It’s possible that the brain might simultaneously have been trained to reduce internalized noise,” Dr. Andersen said. Researchers are increasingly focused on perceptual learning, the brain’s ability to discriminate among stimuli — training the ear, for example, to distinguish between Shostakovich and Bartok, or the palate to discern a cabernet sauvignon from a pinot noir. There is also much research on the aging brain. But until now, few scientists have thought to examine the possibilities for improving perceptual learning in older adults.

Rapamycin reverses aging?

Rapamycin has been found to reduce age-related bone loss, reverse cardiac aging, and reduce chronic inflammation in mice. It’s even been shown to reverse Alzheimer’s disease in them. The Novartis study was the first to examine rapamycin’s effect on aging-related parameters in healthy older people. “It’s a landmark study,” says the Buck Institute’s Kennedy. “It’s the kind of study we need more of.”

Profs getting older

The average age for all tenured professors nationwide is now approaching 55 and creeping upward; the number of professors 65 and older more than doubled between 2000 and 2011. In spite of those numbers, according to a Fidelity Investments study conducted about a year ago, three-quarters of professors between 49 and 67 say they will either delay retirement past age 65 or—gasp!—never retire at all.