Weightlifting may boost memory
Doing resistance training for just 20 minutes per day may help improve long-term memory, according to a new study.
Scientists at Georgia Tech recruited 46 participants, including 29 women and 17 men, and randomly assigned them into two groups for a two-part study. In the first part, the volunteers looked at a series of 90 images on a computer screen. The photos had been classified as “positive,” “neutral” and “negative,” and the volunteers were asked to try to remember as many pictures as possible.
In the second part of the study, the volunteers were again randomly assigned to two groups. The first group, called the “active” group, was seated at a leg extension resistance exercise machine and was instructed to extend and contract each leg 50 times at their maximum effort. The second group, called the “passive” group, was seated at the same machine but was told to sit and allow the machine to move their legs for them. During this part of the study, the researchers monitored the participants’ blood pressure and heart rate and collected saliva samples.
Two days after the exercise part of the study, the participants were again given the photo memory test, but the original 90 images were mixed in with 90 new images.
The researchers found that the active group was able to remember about 60 percent of the images, whereas the passive group was able to remember about 50 percent. They also found that the participants in the active group had increased levels of alpha amylase in their saliva–a marker of norepinephrine, a hormone that previous research has suggested that may improve memory.
The study’s findings, published in the journal Acta Psychologica, suggest that forms of resistance exercise–also known as strength training or weight training–may help improve memory. The findings add more evidence to findings that exercise may help prevent memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, researchers said.
“Superman” dies: Oct. 10, 2004
Christopher Reeve, the actor famous for playing Superman in four movies, dies of heart failure in a New York hospital. It is almost nine and a half years since he had become paralyzed from the neck down after he was thrown from his horse during an equestrian meet in Virginia. By the time he died, Reeve had become one of the world’s leading advocates for research into healing spinal cord injuries.
At the time of his riding accident, Reeve was in the post-Superman phase of his acting career in his effort to, as he put it, “escape the cape.” Ironically, one of his Broadway roles had been as a handicapped Vietnam veteran in the play “The Fifth of July.” His injury occurred when his horse stopped as it approached a jump and Reeve was thrown forward. He landed on his head, shattering his first and second vertebrae.
In the days afterwards, as he would later tell Barbara Walters in an interview, Reeve considered killing himself. Once he saw his children, however, he chose to live and began slowly rehabilitating himself, even though initially he couldn’t breathe without a respirator.
He was never able to recover control of his body–with the exception of being able to move an index finger—but Reeve had followed a specialized workout regimen to keep his arms and legs strong in the event he was able to walk one day
Despite his condition, Reeve did not hesitate to appear in public. He appeared before Congress to lobby for better insurance protection against catastrophic injuries and he spoke at the 1996 Academy Awards, urging those in the audience to make more movies about social issues.
But most of his focus was on being a crusader for people with spinal cord injuries, particularly in pushing for research into whether stem cells could be used to help the body begin repairing itself. He and his wife, Dana, became active in the American Paralysis Foundation, which became the Christopher Reeve Foundation.
His notoriety and commitment brought more exposure and attracted more funding to the cause and, as Dr. John McDonald, director of the Spinal Cord Injury Program at Washington University in St. Louis, noted in Reeve’s obituary in the New York Times: “Before him there was really no hope. If you had a spinal cord injury like his there was not much that could be done, but he’s changed all that, he’s demonstrated that there is hope and that there are things that can be done.”
But Reeve grew increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of stem cell research in the U.S., particularly after President George W. Bush restricted federal funding for research using stem cells obtained from human embryos. In 2003, Reeve went to Israel, a world leader in stem cell research, at the invitation of the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He described the progress in some patients he saw there as “almost overwhelming.”
But Reeve didn’t live long enough to be able to take advantage of the medical advances. It would be more than four years after his death, in January, 2009, before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first clinical trial involving human embryonic stem cells. Unfortunately, the company involved in that first trial, the Geron Corp., of California, abruptly ended its research in 2011 to concentrate on cancer studies.
More slices of history
Woman with womb transplant has baby
A woman in Sweden has become the first known woman to give birth after having a womb transplant. Researchers say that the treatment may make it possible for more infertile women to reproduce.
The woman, whose name has not yet been released, is in her mid-30s and two years ago had a womb transplant from a live 61-year-old donor. The younger woman then received in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. The baby was a healthy baby boy delivered through caesarean section.
Scientists at the University of Gothenburg, where the woman received the womb transplant, have successfully conducted womb transplants in six other women. They received permission to do 10 womb transplants with up to two full-term pregnancies for each woman.
The procedure is the first available treatment for women who were born without a viable womb or who have had their uterus removed. The procedure currently costs around $125,000 in U.S. dollars, and researchers said it is too early to conclude whether it may become a common treatment. An ethical debate surrounding infertility treatments may also determine whether womb transplants may become readiliy available for women, the researchers said.
Scientists find new approach to fighting diabetes
Scientists at Rutgers’ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School have found that removing excess fat cells from certain organs may be an effective way to fight type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when cells in the body lose their ability to use insulin, which causes high levels of blood sugar. Previous research has shown that excess fat in the liver and muscles can cause the body to stop being able to use insulin.
The researchers aimed to find a safe and practical way to reduce levels of abnormal fat in the liver. They decided to modify an existing medication called niclosamide ethanolamine salt (NEN), and then tested it on mice.
The researchers found that NEN induced a process called “mitochondrial uncoupling,” in which levels of excess fat were reduced in order to restore the process of burning sugar for energy. The two main sources of energy in the body are fat and sugar and excess fat can interfere with the burning of sugar.
The study, published in Nature Medicine, suggests that using a drug like NEN could help restore patients’ ability to properly use insulin and eventually reverse type 2 diabetes, researchers said. They acknowledged that further research in humans is needed.