Category Archives: Aging

Calorie restriction, longevity, and health

Previous studies on caloric restriction in animal models like mice and nematodes found that the reduction in consumption lead to an increase in longevity.  Thus far, the impacts of such dietary restrictions in primate species have been mixed, with at least one major study finding no such association between life span and calorie restriction and another concluding that the restriction did in fact add years.

While longevity is still being debated, these studies are finding that the animals “health span”, or the number of years they live before showing signs of age-related disease, is extended among primates living on calorie restricted diets.  To learn more about the concept of a “health span”, as well as specific findings related to health outcomes such as cancer and heart disease among the study cohorts, please visit:

Sleep improves working memory for patients with Parkinson’s disease

Researchers from the Department of Neurology, Program in Sleep Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine investigated the role of sleep in improving the working memory of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD).  Reduced memory capacity is a lesser known symptom associated with PD, which is more commonly associated with visibly slow movements and tremors.

The research team examined how PD patients with and without sleep apnea, a condition where the airway is obstructed and blood oxygen levels decline during sleep, performed on working memory tests after a nights’ rest.  The patients without sleep apnea performed better on the tests, and PD patients also taking dopamine-enhancing medications had improved outcomes over those not taking the medications.  For more information about the study, including comments form the first author, postdoctoral fellow Michael Scullin, please visit:


leep apnea, the disruption of sleep caused by obstruction of the airway, interfered with sleep’s effects on memory. Study participants who showed signs of sleep apnea, if it was severe enough to lower their blood oxygen levels for more than five minutes, did not see a working memory test boost.

While the classic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors and slow movements, Parkinson’s can also affect someone’s memory, including “working memory.” Working memory is defined as the ability to temporarily store and manipulate information, rather than simply repeat it. The use of working memory is important in planning, problem solving and independent living.

The findings underline the importance of addressing sleep disorders in the care of patients with Parkinson’s, and indicate that working memory capacity in patients with Parkinson’s potentially can be improved with training. The results also have implications for the biology of sleep and memory.

The results were published this week in the journal Brain.

“It was known already that sleep is beneficial for memory, but here, we’ve been able to analyze what aspects of sleep are required for the improvements in working memory performance,” says postdoctoral fellow Michael Scullin, who is the first author of the paper. The senior author is Donald Bliwise, professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine.

The performance boost from sleep was linked with the amount of slow wave sleep, or the deepest stage of sleep. Several research groups have reported that slow wave sleep is important for synaptic plasticity, the ability of brain cells to reorganize and make new connections.

Emory researchers move forward in developing a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease

Dr. William Hu, assistant professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, in collaboration with researchers from Washington University at St. Louis, the University of Pennsylvania, and Bristol Myers Squibb have released the results of preliminary study aimed at developing a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease.  The disease is currently diagnosed through techniques like spinal taps or PET imaging, which can be uncomfortable and expensive for patients.  A blood test could not only reduce costs associated with diagnosis, but potentially offer earlier detection.

These results, based on a cohort of 600 individuals both with and without an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis or mild cognitive impairment, revealed four potential biomarkers of the disease that could be identified in blood samples: apolipoprotein E, C-reactive protein, B-type natriuretic peptide, and pancreatic polypeptide.  For more information on the study results, please visit:

Predictions about the future of personalized medicine

A new article from the Wall Street Journal addresses questions about the future of personalized medicine. The article by Dr. David Agus, entitled “A doctor in your pocket: What does the future of medicine hold? Tiny health monitors, tailored therapies  – and the end of illness”, explores the possibilities that await us in the future with advances in portable technologies. Click here to read the full article.

Dietary Choices Impact Alzheimer’s Disease-Associated Brain Shrinkage

The daily choices we make regarding food choice can have long term benefits for brain function.  Findings released by the American Academy of Neurology indicate that among study participants averaging age 87, those who had diets richer in omega 3 fatty acids and in vitamins B, C, D, E performed better on mental thinking tests than those whose nutritional biomarkers indicated lower consumption.  Additionally, those who reported consuming higher levels of trans fats (commonly found in fast foods and packaged products) showed more brain shrinkage than those eating less trans fats.

The results of this research, conducted by Gene Bowman, ND, MPH, of Oregon Health & Science University, can be accessed at  Additionally, a description of the findings and interviews with the lead author is available at

Aging in Place

As our average lifespans increase, so too does our need for extended care options beyond a nursing home or other similar institution.  More and more individuals are wanting to “age in place”, to stay within their own home to age gracefully and retain autonomy as long as possible.  To solve this problem, more than 60 “villages” are already in existence, and 100 more are in the planning stages.  These villages are organized community/neighborhood networks that provide essentially anything their members need.  For example, members can call for a ride to the doctor, get assistance filling out Medicare paperwork, and participate in recreational activities.  These villages provide a great deal of support for a reasonable cost; for example individuals who belong to the Lincoln Park Village in Chicago pay an annual fee of $540 and scholarships are available to those in need.

For the full coverage of this story, please visit:

For more information about aging in place, please visit: