Posts Tagged dementia

The Trouble With Guys’ Brains – Study.

Posted by on Saturday, 22 March, 2014
Most men have lousy memories.



Guys have a problem.

It’s their brains.

You knew that, of course. I’m talking about their memories here. We will defer the many other peculiarities of male thinking for another blog post if you don’t mind. A big honking study of 48,000 people in Norway was carefully done by a team from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Here’s what was discovered.

Guys can’t remember worth a damn. (I sure can’t.) They’re really bad at names. (I really am too.) The Norwegian study, called Hunt3, was led by Dr. Jostein Holmen. It was published in  BMC Psychology.

The participants were asked about names and dates, details of past conversations. All the stuff you would expect, right?

The surprise? Guys were awful! They did much worse than women. Nobody knows why. They were bad when they were young, they were bad when they were middle aged and they were bad (just a little worse, actually) when they were old.

The age thing was a surprise though. The expectation was that younger guys would do a lot better on names and dates and such than they did in real life. More education was a good thing as far as good memory goes. And chronic depression was a bad thing. Neither factor was a surprise as the roles of education and depression have been known for some time.

The researchers were stimied. They couldn’t figure it out.

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad has a theory however. Back in the days before we were too enlightened to stick women with all the child rearing and family duties, the guys went out and threw spears at oxen while the women busied themselves with keeping track of several generations of kids and adults. Maybe there was a selective advantage to being good at knowing the names and ages and personal details of all those people in your charge. This theory, courtesy of ScienceAintSoBad, isn’t without its flaws but the price is right.

Anyway, that’s it for today folks. You’ll forgive me if I forget your birthday.

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Sure. That cartoon is mine.



Posted by on Saturday, 7 December, 2013
Cute cartoon about tinkering with everlasting youth.



MISTER ScienceAintSoBad wishes he could immunize you against old age but, what can I do? It’s nature, right?

Is there a way to “change the rules”?

Maybe there is.

Dr. Aziz Aboobaker (Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences) studies planarian worms. Planarians – those that reproduce asexually –  don’t get old. They  don’t get wrinkles or gray hair, don’t hobble around on canes and don’t need hearing aids.

Being worms.

But get this! They do repair skin, muscles, brain, and bones so that they stay pretty much daisy fresh throughout their weirdly long lives. The secret? Dr. Abbobaker says its the way they regenerate all the stuff in their body whenever needed. Their cells  don’t “run out” of the ability to keep dividing. Ours do. If we could learn their trick, we would be beautiful and healthy for a ridiculously long time.

Chromosomes have a  telomere “cap” at the end. In humans, the cap gets shorter. When it gets too short, it can’t keep the strands of DNA in place and cell division goes haywire.

Planarians don’t have that problem Their telomere caps don’t  shorten  so cell division remains orderly. If we can teach our telomeres to maintain their length,  we’re on  our way to 125 years.

I’m not kidding.

What are the planarians doing that that we non-worms aren’t? There’s an enzyme (telomerase) which is responsible.  It’s more active in the worms that reproduce asexually, protecting the length of their telomere caps. It seems to make these particular worms “immortal”.

Could this work for humans? Would we want it to work?

We are a long way,  biologically speaking,  from asexual worms. What works for them might not work for us in a million ways. And,  If it did? Old age is “natural”, right? It was always thus. You’re a kid,  then a youth,  then your first grey hair. A little pot belly that just won’t quite  go away.  Some wrinkles. Grandchildren. And then golf.

A lot of golf.

Fix the cap on a telomere and all that could change in ways we can’t foresee. A Pandora’s box of unforeseen consequences.

Am I nervous? Well no. This is a nice piece of science but it seems unlikely to rock that boat. More needs to be done to fully understand what this “lab curiosity” means for biology.

A lot more before you can tear up your will.

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The drawing is mine.



Posted by on Thursday, 17 October, 2013
cute cartoon showing member of congress




Researchers are closing in on Alzheimer’s Disease. I spoke recently about some great research but I”m not ready with a new  Alzheimer’s update because  my stuff is supposed to be an easy read (my rules). What’s going on in Alzheimer’s isn’t (an easy read). If I can sprinkle some ScienceAintSoBad Magic Dust on my huge folder labeled Alzheimer’s, you’ll get an article.

It’ll take a lot of dust.

In the meantime – and before there’s anything better – the best chance of beating Alzheimer’s might be to catch it before it gets too far. There are some blood pressure drugs (angiotensin -1 recetor blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) that do a decent job of protection.

Interested? If so, I might be able to sell you on the idea of early detection.

Shiri Stempler (TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine) and Professors Eytan Ruppin and Lior Wolf  (TAU’s Blavatnik School of Computer Science) found a very easy way to know if your wits are at risk.  They found metabolic changes that are a very accurate (90%) predictor of the disease. They’re working on a blood test. Another group, at the Washington School of Medicine, has a candidate test using biomarkers.   And there’s also an eye test that has possibilities.

Please talk this over with your doctor who may think that odd little brain of yours is worth holding on to.

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Drawing by Mister ScienceAintSoBad



Posted by on Wednesday, 11 September, 2013




Are we getting a little ahead of ourselves?

There’s a big conference in New Hampshire – Preventing Overdiagnosis.  One topic at the conference: How come everyone who forgets the least little nothing thing is – BAM – labeled with dementia or predementia?

David de Lecour ( professor of medicine at the University of Sidney) says ( that we’re using the great tools we have to detect lots of minor stuff. We’re “over calling” Alzheimer’s and related illnesses.  The numbers seem to say that dementia’s becoming an epidemic;  maybe some of that’s because we’re doing a better job in identifying it. But LeCour and a lot of other experts say we’re doing a little TOO good a job and should slow down the ball a little.

Who’s right?

There’s no ScienceAintSoBad Rating on this. I just don’t know.

But something to be aware of, okay?

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That drawing’s mine.


Posted by on Sunday, 4 August, 2013



Effective and few side effects

This sounds like what we’ve been waiting for, a treatment for Alzheimer’s that works.  It’s being tested on humans right now.


Alzheimer’s costs the US about $200 billion dollars a year. Fix that – even put a dent in that – and “Obamacare” (Affordable  Care Act, if you prefer) would look  like a precision engineered government program that turns a profit every year.  Also, it could mean you get to have the seniors you love – really have them – in your life for much longer.


This has been tough sledding for researchers.   They’ve known for a long time that the  brains of people with Alzheimer’s look different. There are hard chunks of proteins outside of and around the neurons  (beta amyloid “plaques”) and more proteins (called Tau) tangled up inside the nerve “bodies”. As time goes on,  the connections between the nerves whither away. It took some doing to figure out why the  proteins form these plaques since their presence is a normal thing and they have every right to be there.  It’s just that some of these proteins – more and more of them – become elongated versions of themselves.  These very long proteins clump together and get trapped in cells and interfere with their function.  The result?  In a toe, this would be called a sore toe. In a brain this would be called .. I can’t remember what it would be called. Where DID I leave my glasses, anyway?

I tried, okay? But dementia isn’t funny. It’s sad.

Here’s the thing.

Patrick Fraering is the lead author on a study in the journal Nature Communications which describes the the use of drugs that cause an  enzyme to cut amyloid plaques shorter –  into pieces small enough so that they don’t cause problems for the neuron. It sounds simple but this has been a long time coming. If the clinical tests that are now underway go well, this could be the beginning of something unimaginable – an era where getting old carries a measure of dignity.


Is there a catch? Of course. There’s always a catch when you’re waiting for a medicine to be tested and then for the FDA (or its equivalent elsewhere). But if those close to the project are this encouraged, would MISTER SASB  be tossing cold water?

At MY age? Not on your life!

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Image credits: That’s my own – just a  stick figure drawing, but I kinda like it. 

Do I Have Alzheimers?

Posted by on Wednesday, 14 July, 2010

Don't Ask. Don't Tell



A shelling.

It takes the you out of you.

Would you know if it was happening? Till now it’s been hard to be sure. The standard test is kinda wishy washy. You’re supposed to know it when you see it. Is it really Alzheimer’s disease? Is it depression? Hearing loss? Transient stroke?

How many liberals do you suppose are mistakenly diagnosed as demented? Happens all the time.

Avid Radiopharmaceuticals Inc just announced a test that’s startlingly accurate. 22% developed the disease within a year.  The study (Reisa A. Sperling et al) used a brain dye with a “PET” scan.

That’s not all. There’s other work at Rowan, Penn, and Drexel Universities using EEGs, skin tests, brain scans.

The standard test, itself,  is under review. First update in 26 years. It’ll include “biomarkers” and it’ll reflect advances in the understanding of the underlying pathology.


Lucky us.

Soon we will be able to find out if the lights are going out.

Would you do it?

Kinda depends what you would do with the information, doesn’t it? Any hope of stopping it? Any chance of a cure?

At the least, you can get enough of a warning to prepare yourself and others.

And, who knows, maybe the news’ll be good. You DON’T have dementia.

You’re just a liberal.

(Don’t get mad. I made fun of conservatives LAST time!)

Slipping A Little? How About A Spare Brain?

Posted by on Sunday, 14 February, 2010

Geriatrics: Project COGKNOW.


Every teenager I know thinks his.her parents are demented.

Knows it for a fact.

But dementia is real, not just a derisive term for parents who don’t “get it”.  And, when it happens, it’s always hard.  Out, goes the  fierce irascible mind you’ve known all your life replaced by  hesitation and uncertainty. Someone who NEVER questioned his own decisions, sits around with a fixed stare, writing a science blog and calling himself MISTER ScienceAintSoBad.

Not to make light of it. Because it’s not at all funny when dementia is real.

The Cogknow Project ( Europe – Sweden, The Netherlands, Ireland) did a VERY cool thing.

Its problem:  keeping people in the early stages of dementia independent.  MISTER ScienceAintSoBad is very impressed by the smart way touch screen devices were deployed, giving confidence and purpose to  those who would, otherwise, require full time human assistance.

Creating an effective interface for this population’s kinda impossible. At least, that’s what I THOUGHT till I saw this video.

This project goes in the “technology” bin here at Science Ain’t So Bad. So far, at least, no studies to prove it’s effectiveness.

So what? Not everything requires a peer reviewed article.  Did you  wait for one before you bought your cell IPhone or your Droid?

Cogknow’s work deserves funding and Science Ain’t So Bad hopes it happens.