X-Message-Number: 28278
From: Kennita Watson <>
Subject: Two Weeks of Lifestyle Changes Improve Cognitive Function
Date: Wed, 2 Aug 2006 13:34:43 -0700

Two Weeks of Lifestyle Changes Improve Cognitive Function

Caroline Cassels

July 25, 2006   Simple lifestyle changes, including memory exercises,  
daily exercise, relaxation techniques, and a healthy diet,  
significantly improve cognitive function and brain efficiency in as  
little as 2 weeks, a small pilot study suggests.

"We put people on a 2-week healthy-lifestyle program and compared  
them with a control group told to maintain their normal routine. In a  
very brief time we observed highly significant changes in brain  
function as measured by positron emission tomography [PET] in the  
intervention group, but no change in the control group," the study's  
principal investigator, Gary Small, MD, from the Semel Institute for  
Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los  
Angeles, told Medscape.

The study is published in the June issue of the American Journal of  
Geriatric Psychiatry.

For the study, 17 healthy volunteers aged 35 to 69 years with mild  
age-related memory complaints were recruited. Subjects were then  
randomly assigned to the intervention group, which combined a healthy  
diet plan, relaxation exercises, cardiovascular conditioning, and  
mental exercise that included brainteasers and verbal memory training  
techniques. The control group was simply instructed to maintain their  
normal routine.

Mental Calisthenics

Subjects in the intervention group were told to take brisk daily  
walks and incorporate daily brief relaxation exercises into their  
routine. They were also given shopping lists and a menu guide to  
facilitate a healthy diet plan, which included 5 meals per day high  
in fruits and vegetables, omega-3 fats, and low-glycemic-index  

Intervention subjects were also instructed to incorporate  
brainteasers and mental puzzles into their daily routine as well as  
specific memory training techniques to help focus attention and  
improve visualization and association skills to improve retention and  

Baseline and follow-up assessments in all study subjects included a  
multitrial verbal learning and memory test and a word-generation  
test. In addition, individuals also completed the Memory Functioning  
Questionnaire 64-item instrument that measures frequency of  
forgetting, seriousness of forgetting, changes in current memory  
compared with past memory, and mnemonics use. In addition, all  
subjects underwent PET imaging.

Brain Function

Mean baseline subjective and objective cognitive measures did not  
differ significantly between the 2 groups. However, at follow-up, the  
intervention group's verbal fluency improved significantly, whereas  
the control group's did not.

In addition, subjects in the intervention group showed a 5% decrease  
in left dorsolateral prefrontal activity compared with baseline,  
whereas the control group showed no significant change in brain  

"The decrease in brain metabolism in participants who followed the  
healthy longevity program suggests the brain functioned more  
efficiently and didn't require as much glucose to perform  
effectively,  said Dr. Small.

Based on these results, Dr. Small and his team are planning a much  
larger study of approximately 150 patients age 60 to 80 years that  
will assess the effects of each lifestyle strategy.

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2006;14:538-545.

Live long and prosper,
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
none but ourselves can free our minds.
           -- Bob Marley, "Redemption Song"

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