World News Now-On What Can Affect The Brain
Dietary Fat Dulls the Mind
“A fatty diet can endanger your brain as well as your coronary arteries,” says New Scientist magazine. To understand the effects of a high-fat diet on the brain, researchers in Canada “fed one-month-old rats a diet rich in either animal or vegetable fat until they were four months old.”
A control group was fed a low-fat diet. Both groups were then given learning tasks. The results? The rats on the two high-fat diets “performed much more poorly than the lean rats.”
High-fat diets impair performance on virtually all our measures. It’s remarkable how impaired these animals are. Researchers feel that “fat prevents the brain [from] taking up glucose, possibly by interfering with the action of insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels.
What AIDS Can Do To The Brain
AIDS does not only destroy the victims’ bodies. It often consumes their minds as well. AIDS patients call it the most terrifying thing they can imagine, seeing the virus attack the central nervous system and affect “the victim’s ability to think, feel, talk and move.”
Postmortem brain studies of AIDS patients show that 50 percent had damage to the central nervous system directly attributable to the virus, and 25 percent more showed damage due to strokes, infections, or cancer. Dementia symptoms are not limited to adults. Children with AIDS have the problems as well.
Consuming too much alcohol and fat over the years not only increases flabbiness but also shrinks the brain, according to a study by a research group of Akita University Medical College in Japan. Over the past seven years, the group conducted a survey of 960 people, using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), and found that 58 percent of those who are dependent on alcohol had developed atrophy of the brain.
Among those with hyperlipemia, a high level of fatty compounds in the blood, 41 percent of those in their 40’s and 50’s and 55 percent of those over 60 showed such atrophy. In stark contrast, only 4 percent of those with neither alcohol dependence nor hyperlipemia showed signs of atrophy. Symptoms of dementia were observed among 80 percent of those with atrophy, reports the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun. Assistant Professor Ikuo Naemura of the research group advises: “Atrophy of the brain develops slowly but surely. It is important to avoid overdrinking alcohol and overeating fatty food.”
Lying Is Tough Work for the Brain
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found that the brain has to work much harder to tell a lie than it does to tell the truth. Dr. Daniel Langleben has been studying this phenomenon using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine to pinpoint which parts of the brain are activated when a person lies.
When faced with a question, our brain first needs to process it. Then, “almost by instinct, a liar will first think of the true answer before devising or speaking [a] false answer,” reports The News of Mexico City. “In the brain, you never get something for nothing,” says Langleben. “The process for telling a lie is more complicated than telling the truth, resulting in more neuron activity.” This increased neuron activity shows up on an fMRI like a light bulb. “Even for the smoothest-talker, lying is tough work for the brain,” says the paper.
Sleep for the Brain- World News Now
Why do we need sleep? At a recent conference in Strasbourg, France, a controversial theory was presented. Sleep was said to be of less benefit to the body than to the brain, which recovers from the efforts of the day through sleep. Tests indicate that whereas “human bodily functions continue practically unimpaired even after several days without sleep,” reports Die Zeit, “the brain is different.”
In test cases, people suffered from “lack of attention and concentration, impaired memory, a slowing down of the thought process, and orientation problems” when deprived of sleep.
Hard on Brains- World News Now
The evidence of brain damage in amateur and professional boxers is “beyond doubt,” states the British Medical Association. Doctors using X-ray scanning techniques can detect brain damage even before boxers show signs of slurred speech, staggering movements or loss of memory.
The association’s report says that damage from repeated blows on the head is cumulative and normally irreversible and suggests that boxers should be required to sign a consent form similar to that given to patients prior to major brain surgery. Though this fresh research is likely to inspire efforts to ban the sport, others feel, as one editor of The Times of London put it, that “if people wish to damage their brains it is not the business of the state to intervene.”