Study finds men are more forgetful than women
A new study from Norway has found that men are more forgetful than women, and that’s not only when they grow older.
Scientists conducted a population health study, called Hunt3, in which they recruited more than 37,000 men and women between ages 30 and 60. Participants were asked to answer nine questions pertaining to their memory, including whether they experienced any noticeable short- or long-term memory changes or problems.
The researchers found that in both men and women, memory problems increased with age. They said they were surprised, however, that men reported the most memory problems in all age groups. The research, published in the journal BMC Psychology, does not provide evidence for reasons why there are gender differences in memory.
The scientists did note that high blood pressure or high body mass index could have a role in gender differences in memory, researchers said, but more studies are needed to better understand the hypothesized link. Further research could also lead to better understanding of risk factors for dementia, they said.
Hearing loss linked to faster brain shrinkage
Hearing loss may have greater consequences than people realize. A new study published in NeuroImage claims older adults who experience hearing loss have quicker and higher chances of shrinking brains.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University performed a study using 126 participants ages 56 to 86 over a 10-year period. Individuals underwent yearly magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans, as well as physical tests for hearing, among others. At the start of the study, 71 participants experienced normal hearing levels, and 51 showed signs of hearing loss at a minimum of 25 decibels.
By studying the MRIs, the team noticed a pattern. Participants with impaired hearing had quicker brain shrinkage compared to those with normal hearing. How much more did their brains shrink? About an extra cubic centimeter of brain tissue per year. The brain areas most affected were the superior, middle and inferior temporal gyri—the areas responsible for processing speech and sound. Which, according to one researcher, makes sense since people with hearing impairment use speech and sound less; therefore, reducing stimulation to these parts of the brain. Without proper stimulation, the tissue will reduce in size.
These findings spotlight the need for hearing loss treatment early on and will hopefully help how doctors approach it.
Are stethoscopes becoming extinct?
A stethoscope seems like the main tool a doctor uses. But this image may soon turn into a distant memory as stethoscopes are slowly replaced by pocket-sized ultrasound machines.
About the size and look of a smartphone, the ultrasound devices take stethoscopes to a whole new level. According to the journal Global Heart, these machines can look at the heart and other organs, lowering misdiagnoses and increasing early detection of health problems. The devices could also create longer check-ups so a doctor has more time to talk with their patient.
So why aren’t these devices widespread already? First off, they’re pricey: One device can cost up to $10,000. Second, this technology is fairly new. Doctors who’ve been practicing with stethoscopes for decades are unlikely to switch over to ultrasound machines. Their use will likely become more prevalent with young generations of doctors-in-training who are already learning how to use these devices while in medical school.
Fast eye movements linked to impulsive decisions
The speed of eye movements may affect humans’ level of patience and decision-making abilities, according to a new study.
Scientists from Johns Hopkins University monitored healthy volunteers’ saccades—motions the eyes make when they switch focus between objects. The researchers first monitored the volunteers’ saccades by using a camera to record eye movements between dots on a screen. The researchers then tested the volunteers’ patience levels by instructing them to look in a certain direction on the screen while the dots appeared and disappeared.
The findings, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, showed that the participants with the fastest eye movements were less willing to wait for instructions than those with slower eye movements.
The study’s findings suggest that making decisions is linked to the way the nervous system evaluates time and reward and could provide insight into why decision-making is more difficult for people with brain injuries or neurological disorders. Changes in impulsivity is a symptom of various conditions, including schizophrenia and depression, so further research on in that area is seen as being important for developing more effective treatments.
Scientists find neuron that controls how much we eat
The prefrontal cortex of the brain may be able to help regulate appetite by having specific neurons “switched” on and off, according to a new study.
Scientists sought to find an explanation for previous studies that have found a link between the prefrontal cortex and appetite regulation, but have not been able to explain the relationship. In the recent study, researchers used mice to examine the role of neurons in the brain that receive dopamine—the neurotransmitter that allows the brain to perceive rewards and controls pleasure centers of the brain.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, showed that when the dopamine-receptor neurons in the prefrontal cortex were inhibited—or “switched off”—the mice ate less. When the neurons were switched on, the neurons caused the mice to eat more.
The study’s findings suggest that the brain regions associated with decision-making and emotions also regulate eating behaviors. The researchers are hopeful that the findings could lead to new treatments for obesity or eating disorders.