Being bilingual may slow brain decline
Learning a second language may help improve certain brain functions while slowing the brain’s natural aging process, concludes new research.
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh looked at data from intelligence tests taken by 262 Edinburgh residents at the age of 11 and then when those people were tested again in their 70s. All of the participants were bilingual—195 of them having learned a second language besides English before the age of 18, and 65 having learned a second language after the age of 18. The researchers then focused on how the participants’ cognitive abilities changed over time.
The findings, published in the journal Annals of Neurology, showed that those who spoke two or more languages—regardless of when they learned a second language—had stronger cognitive abilities compared to what would have been expected from the results of their baseline tests. The researchers found that being bilingual seemed to especially improve general intelligence and reading skills.
Researchers said that their study provides some understanding of the effect of learning a second language on the brain’s aging process. However, they noted that further studies will be needed to confirm whether the link between bilingualism and cognitive decline prevention is causal.
Stress tied to male infertility
Men with higher levels of stress may be less fertile than those with lower levels, according to a new study.
Scientists at Columbia University and Rutgers School of Public Health assessed 193 ages 38 to 49 between the years of 2005 and 2008. Through a series of tests, the researchers assessed the participants’ stress levels in the workplace, stressful life events and overall stress. The men then provided semen samples, which the researchers analyzed for semen concentration, sperm shape and sperm movement—factors that are assessed in standard fertility testing methods.
The results of the study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, showed that the men who experienced two or more stressful events within the past year demonstrated less sperm movement and had a lower percentage of normal sperm shape, when compared with the men who experienced no stressful events. The findings also showed that men with higher levels of stress in the workplace had decreased levels of testosterone, which researchers said could affect fertility.
The researchers concluded that men’s social environment may affect their reproductive health, but acknowledged that it remains unclear how exactly stress may affect the quality of semen.
Multiple sunburns as teens raises melanoma risk
Multiple sunburns during teenage years may increase risk of melanoma by as much as 80 percent, according to new research.
The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, looked at 20 years’ worth of data on female nurses between the ages of 25 and 42 in 1989. At the beginning of the study, the women answered questions about the number of blistering sunburns they experienced between ages 15 and 20, as well as questions about personal and family history of moles and the various forms of skin cancer. Every two years, further data was collected on disease and health-related topics that are known to contribute to skin cancer risk.
Data analysis showed that the women who had experienced five or more blistering sunburns between ages 15 and 20 had a 68 percent increased risk of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, and they had an 80 percent increased risk of melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer. The findings, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, suggest that young people and parents of young people should pay close attention to sun exposure in order to reduce risk of developing melanoma.
Bedrooms with too much light linked to obesity
People who sleep in a room with too much light may be more at risk of obesity than people who sleep in a room with little or no light, a new study concludes.
A team of scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London conducted a study of 113,000 women. The women were asked to rate the amount of light in their bedrooms at night based on four different descriptions. The researchers then measured the women’s body mass index (BMI), waist-to-hip ratio and waist circumference, which are all measures of obesity.
The researchers found that the women who described their bedrooms at night as “light enough to see across the room, but not to read” generally had larger waistlines. The findings, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, suggest that light and darkness play a role in the human body’s clock. However, the evidence is not significant enough to suggest that making one’s bedroom darker will affect one’s weight, the researchers noted.
Does cynicism raise risk of dementia?
A new study has found that risk of developing dementia may be higher in people with a cynical perspective on life—characterized by the belief that others are motivated by selfish interests.
Scientists at the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio recruited almost 1,500 people with an average age of 71. The participants were given tests for dementia, symptoms of which lead to impaired intellectual functioning and are caused by disorders that affect the brain. They were then asked to fill out questionnaires that assessed levels of cynical distrust, which were categorized as either low, moderate or high. During a period of eight years, 46 people were diagnosed with dementia.
After the study period, the researchers concluded that the individuals with the highest levels of cynical distrust were as much as three times more likely to develop dementia than those with low or moderate levels. The findings, published in the journal Neurology, suggest that people’s view on life and other’s personalities may have an impact on their health.
Researchers said that further studies on the link between cynicism and dementia may help provide better understanding of how to reduce risks of dementia.