Mind & Mood Archive


Boost your memory by eating right

How diet can help—or harm—your cognitive fitness.

Before you cut into a big T-bone steak with French fries, here is some food for thought: Research suggests that what we eat might have an impact on our ability to remember and our likelihood of developing dementia as we age.

Ask the doctor: Side effects of anxiety medications

Q. I have been taking an SSRI (paroxetine HCl) for many years for chronic anxiety and, at times, panic attacks. What are the side effects of the long-term use of SSRIs?

A. Fortunately, SSRIs are generally safe drugs. Like all medicines, they can produce side effects in some people: insomnia, rashes, headaches, joint and muscle pain, stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhea are most common. They also can diminish sexual interest, desire, performance, satisfaction, or all four.

Preserving brain function

Living with purpose may protect against changes.

Volunteering, caring for others, or pursuing a hobby may seem like routine activities. But a new study finds that engaging in meaningful activities promotes cognitive health in old age.

The study was published in Archives of General Psychiatry. Participants who reported higher levels of purpose in life exhibited better cognitive function despite the accumulation of abnormal protein depositions (amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles) in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

Tele-counseling aids depression treatment

For people who are battling depression, "talk therapy" can be very helpful. But due to the inconvenience, cost, and the time required, many people cut the treatment short. Now, a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that delivering a form of counseling called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) by telephone may keep people in treatment long enough for it to have an impact.

CBT teaches people to recognize and respond to negative thinking more effectively. In the study, 325 people were offered CBT. Half received 18 sessions of CBT by phone; the remainder received therapy in person. Researchers found that telephone CBT worked just as well as face-to-face meetings for reducing symptoms of depression. However, six months after the sessions ended, people who completed CBT in person were less depressed than those who obtained help by telephone.

Discovery may lessen depression stigma

New techniques for diagnosing depression may make it easier to tell if you have the condition. They may also help change perceptions about the disorder. Two new studies indicate that depression is a physiological illness, detectable in the blood. In April, researchers at Northwestern University found they could use a blood test to diagnose depression in teenagers. A few months earlier, Harvard-affiliated researchers reported a similar finding in adults. Their blood test identified nine biomarkers associated with depression, and correctly identified people with depression 91% of the time.

"The test needs more stringent validation before it will be ready to be used in medical offices. Still, it appears that these results are promising," says Dr. Gustavo Kinrys, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and one of the authors of the study.

Could a silent stroke erode your memory?

Without any warning, your mind could be at risk.

A stroke can be dramatic—and devastating. As part of the brain is starved of its blood supply, cells may die. If a large number of brain cells die, with them may go some of a person's ability to speak, move, and remember.

Overeating may reduce brain function

High caloric intake could raise the risk of memory loss.

Eating too many calories may do more than just expand your midsection. A recent study suggests that high caloric intake over time may actually raise your odds of developing memory loss, or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), later in life.

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