Senior Moments: A Sign Of Worse To Come?

Naming animals is one possible question on tests that doctors use to assess memory.

Senior Moments: A Sign Of Worse To Come?
April 11, 2011

an expert: Dr. Kirk Daffner, who directs the Mind-Brain Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Daffner is editor of a just-published report on age-related memory loss.

Daffner put Phyllis Hersch through a series of memory tests: repeating back strings of words and numbers, some mental arithmetic, and so on. They’re designed to see if a person can encode new memories, manipulate the information and recall it.

Hersch scored in the normal range, but Daffner checks up on her every six months or so to see if there’s any change.

Faulty Memory Vs. Not Paying Attention

Daffner says much of the time, what people experience as a memory problem is really a not-paying-attention problem.

… When you’re paying attention to all those things, even on a subliminal level, these piece help you remember that you shut the door. When you’re not, you may not retrieve that memory.

“What’s common as people age is that the speed at which information can be retrieved on demand is slowed,” … There are lots of reasons why brains get sluggish.

High blood pressure damages the wiring that connects different parts of the brain.
Poor sleep or excess alcohol are enemies of a nimble brain.
And many medicines — including common drugs to reduce stomach acid, control asthma or treat depression — can slow the brain down.

Many Have ‘A Little Bit Of Alzheimer’s’

Nearly 40 percent of people who die without dementia, or any measurable cognitive problems, have definite signs of Alzheimer’s disease in their brains, says Dr. David Bennett, who directs the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

“If you look in the brains of older people, it’s hard not to have at least a little bit of Alzheimer’s pathology,” Bennett says. “It’s probably a much, much larger problem than we currently recognize.” Just as almost everybody has a little bit of heart disease after a certain age, Bennett says, a lot of people have “a little bit of Alzheimer’s.”

Bennett’s findings come from 16 years of studying thousands of older people who volunteered for the research when they had no cognitive problems. All agreed to donate their brains after death for study. Bennett acknowledges that the notion that many apparently healthy people are walking around with Alzheimer’s-like damage in their brains “could frighten a lot of people.”

But in fact, his studies also contain some really good news. Bennett says many people clearly are able to tolerate “a little bit of Alzheimer’s” in their brains — or even more than a little bit.

Some people are lucky when it comes to cognitive reserve. They inherit more of it. Perhaps 50 percent of cognitive reserve is genetically determined.
Education -– both the formal variety and rich life experiences -– also contribute.

But some people have bad luck. Their cognitive reserve gets depleted by loneliness, anxiety or depression.

Bennett says people who tolerate Alzheimer’s-like brain damage have certain things in common. “Having a purpose in life, conscientiousness, social networks, stimulating activities — all these things seem to be protective in terms of how your brain expresses whatever pathology it’s accumulating,” he says.

Are We Plugged-In, Connected, But Alone?

TED Radio Hour
Do We Need Humans?

Part 1
Are We Plugged-In, Connected, But Alone?
February 26, 2013

we expect more from technology and less from each other

we are lonely, but we are afraid of intimacy

from social networks to sociable robots we are designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.
We turn to technology to help us feel connected in ways we can comfortably control.

Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone?
Feb 2012


Social Isolation V. Loneliness: The Difference And Why It Matters

Social Isolation V. Loneliness: The Difference And Why It Matters 
April 03, 2013

Steptoe, professor of epidemiology and public health, University College London

Maybe Social Isolation, Not Loneliness, Shortens Life 
by Jon Hamilton
March 26, 2013

Have We Met Before? Doppelgangers Caught On Camera

Have We Met Before? Doppelgangers Caught On Camera
by Serri Graslie
January 29, 2013

a symptom of the modern world we live in — where, despite our connections through social media, we can feel more alone than ever.

BRUNELLE: you would be surprised how many people on this planet are looking for their doppelganger. And the most interesting example, would be the Chinese people. I’ve got many emails over the years from Chinese people who are asking me, could you please find my lookalike, please, so I can have something to relate to? And some of them write from Beijing, China. So…

BLOCK: What do you think that says?

BRUNELLE: Well, I think that we live in a world where people are more alone than ever because we’re more in contact with people with Facebook and the smartphones and everything. But at the end of the day, you’re alone in your room and you’re thinking about your life, and it’s – you would like to have someone, to relate to, that could be your partner or your best friend. So someone who looks like you, at least you can share some of your misery


PUBMED papers on doppelgängers:

What are the signs that a person is disturbed enough to take action?

What Causes Someone to Act on Violent Impulses?
Some people are able to control anger or frustration and channel these feelings to nondestructive outlets. Others, …
Jan 12, 2011

Marco Iacoboni, a University of California, Los Angeles, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and director of the school’s Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Laboratory, about why some individuals act on their violent thoughts whereas others do not.
Iacoboni is best known for his work studying mirror neurons, a small circuit of cells in the brain that may be an important element of social cognition.

What turns anger into action?
Mostly cognitive control, or to use a less technical term, self-control.
About a year ago I was in Davos at the World Economic Forum, and we had a dinner-with-talks on intelligence. University of Michigan professor of social psychology Richard Nisbett, the world’s greatest authority on intelligence, plainly said that he’d rather have his son being high in self-control than intelligence.
Self-control is key to a well-functioning life, because our brain makes us easily [susceptible] to all sorts of influences.
Watching a movie showing violent acts predisposes us to act violently. Even just listening to violent rhetoric makes us more inclined to be violent.
Ironically, the same mirror neurons that make us empathic make us also very vulnerable to all sorts influences.

A variety of issues, especially mental health problems that lead to social isolation, lead the subject to a mental state that alters his or her ability to exercise cognitive control in a healthy manner.

What are the signs that a person is disturbed enough to take action?
The signs are quite visible, although difficult to interpret without a context


How universal can an intelligence test be?


Myeloid differentiation architecture of leukocyte transcriptome dynamics in perceived social isolation
PNAS vol. 112 no. 49: 15142–15147
Steven W. Colea, et al.