Rotary phones have been outdated for 30 years, so young kids in the mid-2010s only ever see them in really old movies. Consequently, said kids are adorable when they get their hands on one. Besides all the stuff you’d expect in a video like this — not knowing how to dial, or what a dial tone and busy signal are — the children are also astonished to find out you couldn’t text on one, and that even if you carried it around in a back pack, it wouldn’t work outside the house because it needed a wire.
From YouTube, via Mental Floss
A study from UC Berkeley shows that the quality of sleep in older people is a lot worse than in younger, healthy people and that this prevents memories from being moved from short-term to long-term memory. The study was done on 18 people in their 20s and 15 people in their 70s: scientists made them memorize some new words, then measured their sleep statistics, and finally quizzed them in the morning while getting an fMRI. The quality of sleep in the elderly was 75% that of younger people, and their recall was 55%. (The summary doesn’t say, but hopefully the scientists calculated their statistics properly, and didn’t just discover that old people forget and, independently, that they also don’t sleep well.) The decline in sleep quality is correlated to age-related deterioration in the frontal lobe, which normally generates slow brain waves during sleep.
If lack of quality sleep is the cause of memory loss, then the issue might apply also to younger people who are also forgetful — perhaps because they don’t sleep enough or have sleep apnea. As for older people, there are ways to improve quality of sleep: pills, electrical stimulation of the brain, or, best of all: blueberries, vitamins and exercise. Also, it’s worth mentioning that in 2011, scientists at Stanford figured out that a protein in the blood caused forgetfulness in older mice.
From UC Berkeley, via Slashdot
There’s a Greek island off the coast of Turkey, called Ikaria, whose inhabitants live about 10 years longer on average than the rest of Europeans. They also have a better quality of life, with 60% of those over 90 years old being active, as opposed to 20% elsewhere. Levels of depression and dementia are low, and problems like cancer and heart disease arise about 10 years later than normal. Naturally, these facts piqued the interest of researchers, who set out to see what’s different about life on the island. They don’t have a clear answer, but they made a number of observations:
- The lifestyle on the island is slow-paced and easy going
- The people are friendly and very sociable
- They eat a lot of fish, vegetables and goat milk
- They don’t eat much beef, pork or chicken
- They use a lot of wild greens and herbs for both food (e.g., tea) and medicine
- They don’t eat much processed foods
- Most food is cooked in olive oil
- They get a lot of fresh air
- They get a lot of exercise, even just by having to walk through the island’s mountainous terrain
- They drink a moderate amount of wine
- Rates of smoking are low
- Rates of midday napping are high
- The elderly are given important roles in society
- There’s natural radiation in the island’s granite rocks
The village of Armenistis in Ikaria
From BBC, via Neatorama
This man was a truck driver for 28 years, so the sun hit the left side of his face all day long, but not the right. This occurs because light is radiation and therefore high exposure causes skin mutation, known as photo-aging or dermatoheliosis.
From The New England Journal of Medicine, via Neatorama
If you want to feel even older, check out the Beloit Mindset List, which explain’s the current college freshman’s world view in terms of things they’re not familiar with, like the Soviet Union.
From FAIL Blog
A study, published in September of 2011, was done to find out if the loss of muscle mass in the elderly was simply a fact of aging or just disuse, so they looked at muscles in “high level recreational athletes” or “masters athletes” and this what they found:
The preservation of muscle mass and lack of fatty infiltration in the muscles of our subjects are dramatically illustrated in Figure 1.
Adipose means "fatty", subcutaneous means "under the skin", and intramuscular is what it sounds like
The researchers looked at 40 of these “masters” athletes: ten in their 40s, ten in their 50s, and so on; five women and five men in each decade. These were amateur athletes, not professional ones, but many of them were “age-group winners for their sport,” and they trained at least four times a week. The researchers poked, prodded and measured the athletes to find out what their body was made of and what their quadriceps peak torque was (how much weight they could push with their legs). The results:
- The athletes over 70 were fatter: higher BMI and more body fat
- Lean muscle mass was the same across all age groups, so “chronic intense exercise preserved muscle mass”
- The peak torque was the same for those aged 40-60 and for those aged 60-80, but lower in the second group than in the first. So strength dips a little after 60, but then stays the same.
- “Chronic exercise is prophylactic against age-related functional decline, as exercise at any age stimulates protein synthesis and increased muscle mass and strength.”
Ergo, you don’t have to become the weak old person getting around with a walker or a Hoveround; but it does take work to not only build those muscles, but also to keep them in old age. Work that is undoubtedly worth it, because besides keeping the walker at bay, exercise also helps with heart disease, cancer, stroke and memory loss — which are 4 of the 6 leading causes of death, especially among the elderly; the other two are smoking and accidents.
From The Physician and Sports Medicine, via Neatorama
Stanford University’s School of Medicine published details of a very interesting study: they hooked up two mice together, one old and one young, via their circulatory systems to see what would happen to their brains. Specifically, they were looking at one of the few areas where the adult brain can still make new neurons: a part of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus, which probably helps us make new memories. The result was that when the young and old blood was mixed together, the old mouse started making a lot more neurons in the dentate gyrus (i.e., more and better memories) and the young mouse started making less.
The scientists being scientists weren’t satisfied just yet, so they tried figuring out what specifically in the blood caused the brain in the young mouse to act old and vice-versa. First, they figured out that there was no cell transfer between the mice (by making one of the mice glow green), which meant that the substance was in plasma. After looking at 66 different proteins, they found six that had higher levels in mice with old blood — whether they were plain old mice, or young mice with old blood. The one that was most significant is called eotaxin (aka CCL11), and another one is MCP-1 (aka CCL2).
Just to make sure, they injected young mice with eotaxin and they started acting old and forgetting stuff just like expected. So it looks like as the mice get older, they get increased levels of some proteins in blood that causes their brain to not work too good no more. The scientists are of course now trying to see if this has anything to do with people, and specifically with Alzheimer’s, but generally they’re just going to keep trying to find the Fountain of Youth.
Juan Ponce de León
Previously, we’ve seen that walking 3x a week improved memory in the elderly and increased brain mass in the hippocampus. The study’s abstract mentions this fact as well, so it’s interesting to wonder if maybe exercise keeps the memory-killing proteins at younger levels.
From Stanford University, via Nature, Popular Science and Neatorama
Everyone knows that as people age, their memory fades. This is due in part to the mind just ignoring more and more events as we get older, because they’re similar to ones that happened before: at some point, all your birthday parties end up blurring together. In part, it’s also due to the neurons in the brain degrading as they age, making it harder for it to store new memories. And it’s also due to the brain shrinking as it ages — less brain mass means less room to store memories.
Photo by Kate McCarthy
But three new studies showcased in a Healthier Talk article found some ways to fight the decline of memory:
- Blueberries have been shown to improve memory, as well as mood and to reduce blood sugar levels
- Shots of folate, B6 and B12 slowed the rate of brain shrinkage in people over 70 by 30%
- Walking 3x a week actually increased brain mass in the hippocampus (where memories are stored), whereas doing nothing decreased it.
In other words, nothing beats exercise. Not even blueberries and B12.
From Healthier Talk, via Lifehacker