Memory

Christine Junge

Can computer games keep your brain fit?

Computer games are being touted as a way to keep the body fit. Can they do the same for your brain? Most experts say “Not so fast.” As described in Improving Memory: Understanding age-related memory loss, a new Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, people who play these games might get better at the tasks they practice while playing, but the games don’t seem to improve users’ overall brain skills, such as attention, memory, use of language, and ability to navigate. To stretch and exercise your brain, choose an activity you enjoy—reading, playing cards, or doing crossword puzzles are some good examples. If you’re feeling ambitious, try learning to speak a new language or play a musical instrument. Most of these activities come at a much lower cost than brain-training programs, and you’ll probably find them to be a lot more enjoyable, too.

Patrick J. Skerrett

National plan aims to bolster fight against Alzheimer’s

By the year 2050, experts estimate that 16 million Americans will be living with this Alzheimer’s disease. In an effort to head off the explosion, President Obama has signed into law the National Alzheimer’s Project Act. This ambitious project aims to attack Alzheimer’s disease by improving early diagnosis, finding effective prevention and treatment strategies, providing better support for family caregivers, and more. A newly released draft of the project, which a panel of experts is reviewing this week, sets a 2025 deadline for achieving these and other goals. One big drawback—the act doesn’t provide concrete details about how to fund the research and implementation efforts needed to meet the goals.

Annmarie Dadoly

Is it Alzheimer’s, or just a memory slip?

Everyone has moments of forgetfulness—misplaced keys, a forgotten errand, the name of that movie you want to recommend but can’t get off the tip of your tongue. A certain amount of forgetfulness seems to be a normal byproduct of aging. But how do you know is forgetfulness signals something more serious, like Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia? According to “A Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease,” an updated Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, by exploring several questions you may be able to get a clearer sense of normal versus worrisome forgetfulness: Is my loved one worried about the memory loss? Is he or she getting lost in familiar territory? Are word-finding problems common? Is your loved one losing the ability to socialize, or interest in it?

Patrick J. Skerrett

At Harvard Forum, experts debate how much vitamin D is enough

A panel discussion at Harvard School of Public Health called “Boosting Vitamin D: Not Enough or Too Much?” highlights the current controversy over the once-overlooked sunshine vitamin. A panel of experts assembled by the Institute of Medicine recommends a daily dose of 600 IU per day for everyone from ages 1 to 70 and 800 IU for those over 70. Other experts think the IOM recommendation is too low. One way to get vitamin D is to spend a few minutes a day outside in the sun, but that’s a hot-button issue because sun exposure is a cause of skin cancer.

Ann MacDonald
Patrick J. Skerrett

Cell phone use stimulates brain activity

An elegant new study showing that a cell phone can stimulate brain activity is certain to heat up the debate about whether or not cell phone use is linked to cancer. It’s an important signal that it’s high time scientists take a harder look at how the energy radiated by a cell phone, a mobile phone, or any other energy-emitting device we hold next to our heads affects the brain.

Peter Wehrwein

Football and concussions: Old school, new school, and a conversation with Jerry Kramer

Tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m., tens of millions of television sets will be turned on as Americans sit down and participate in that unofficial national holiday called “watching the Super Bowl.” For many, it’s an excuse to see funny ads and the half-time show and to eat (how many of those spanking new Dietary Guidelines will be broken?), drink, and socialize. But […]

Michael Craig Miller, M.D.

More on Brain Injury in the NFL

If you watch football on Thanksgiving, keep the players’ brain health in mind. Alan Schwarz of the NY Times has been a dogged defensive end, in hot pursuit of this story. Read his latest contribution here. He points out that the National Football League (NFL) has been slow to assess penalties on players who take violent […]

Michael Craig Miller, M.D.

Concussions in Football

I have to applaud today’s editorial in the New York Times that anticipates a new football season. Here is the first paragraph — The millionaire players of professional football are suiting up for the new season with a startling caution on their locker room walls. A poster headlined “CONCUSSION” warns players that lifelong brain damage […]