Brain and cognitive health

Can getting quality sleep help prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

Matthew Solan
Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Sleep gives the brain the opportunity to rid itself of proteins believed to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and now research is showing an association between poor sleep and the accumulation of those proteins.

Yoga could complement traditional treatment for depression

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD
Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, Contributing Editor

New research suggests that yoga may help with depression when used alongside traditional treatment. Evidence does not recommend any specific styles of yoga, so you can see which style fits best with you and your preferences. Yoga has also been shown to help those with mild depression, but more research is needed to be certain.

For people with MS, can exercise change the brain?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Researchers are investigating the possibility that exercise can benefit people with multiple sclerosis. MRI tests on study participants show brain changes that suggest exercise may slow the progression of the disease.

Right brain/left brain, right?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The long-held belief that people fall into right-brain and left-brain classifications is based in behaviors or personality traits, but medical evidence does not necessarily support this concept.

Your brain on chocolate

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

When research finds a connection between consumption of high-flavanol dark chocolate and improved brain function, it’s tempting to interpret it as permission to eat a lot of chocolate, but the truth isn’t quite so simple.

Keeping your smartphone nearby may not be so smart

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

As many as 75% of adults in the US own a smartphone. While these devices may make life more efficient, experiments with groups of college students suggest that keeping your smartphone out of sight can make it easier to focus on demanding mental tasks.

Does drinking diet soda raise the risk of a stroke?

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

While a study suggests that people who drink a diet soda or more per day may be at higher risk for stroke, there are other factors that could account for these results. Regardless, it’s wise to limit any food with artificial sweetener.

Can probiotics help treat depression and anxiety?

Athos Bousvaros, MD
Athos Bousvaros, MD, Contributor

Research is exploring the connection between the brain and intestine and how they affect each other, and whether the use of probiotics can help treat depression or anxiety.

This is your brain on alcohol

Beverly Merz
Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Moderate drinking may have negative long-term effects on the brain’s health, but as yet the research is inconclusive, and must be weighed alongside the evidence that moderate alcohol consumption benefits the heart. If you’re a moderate or light drinker trying to decide whether to cut back for health reasons, you probably want to consider a variety of factors.

More evidence that exercise helps keep your brain fit

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

A review of dozens of studies on the benefits of exercise on cognitive health concluded that, for those over 50, just about any form of activity is beneficial if performed regularly.