neurosciencestuff:

Training Your Brain to Prefer Healthy Foods
It may be possible to train the brain to prefer healthy low-calorie foods over unhealthy higher-calorie foods, according to new research by scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University and at Massachusetts General Hospital. Published online today in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes, a brain scan study in adult men and women suggests that it is possible to reverse the addictive power of unhealthy food while also increasing preference for healthy foods.
“We don’t start out in life loving French fries and hating, for example, whole wheat pasta,” said senior and co-corresponding author Susan B. Roberts, Ph.D., director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA, who is also a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and an adjunct professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine. “This conditioning happens over time in response to eating – repeatedly! - what is out there in the toxic food environment.”
Scientists have suspected that, once unhealthy food addiction circuits are established, they may be hard or impossible to reverse, subjecting people who have gained weight to a lifetime of unhealthy food cravings and temptation. To find out whether the brain can be re-trained to support healthy food choices, Roberts and colleagues studied the reward system in thirteen overweight and obese men and women, eight of whom were participants in a new weight loss program designed by Tufts University researchers and five who were in a control group and were not enrolled in the program.
Both groups underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans at the beginning and end of a six-month period. Among those who participated in the weight loss program, the brain scans revealed changes in areas of the brain reward center associated with learning and addiction. After six months, this area had increased sensitivity to healthy, lower-calorie foods, indicating an increased reward and enjoyment of healthier food cues. The area also showed decreased sensitivity to the unhealthy higher-calorie foods.
“The weight loss program is specifically designed to change how people react to different foods, and our study shows those who participated in it had an increased desire for healthier foods along with a decreased preference for unhealthy foods, the combined effects of which are probably critical for sustainable weight control,” said co-author Sai Krupa Das, Ph.D., a scientist in the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA and an assistant professor at the Friedman School. “To the best of our knowledge this is the first demonstration of this important switch.” The authors hypothesize that several features of the weight loss program were important, including behavior change education and high-fiber, low glycemic menu plans.
“Although other studies have shown that surgical procedures like gastric bypass surgery can decrease how much people enjoy food generally, this is not very satisfactory because it takes away food enjoyment generally rather than making healthier foods more appealing,” said first author and co-corresponding author Thilo Deckersbach, Ph.D., a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. “We show here that it is possible to shift preferences from unhealthy food to healthy food without surgery, and that MRI is an important technique for exploring the brain’s role in food cues.”
“There is much more research to be done here, involving many more participants, long-term follow-up and investigating more areas of the brain,” Roberts added. “But we are very encouraged that, the weight loss program appears to change what foods are tempting to people.”

neurosciencestuff:

Training Your Brain to Prefer Healthy Foods

It may be possible to train the brain to prefer healthy low-calorie foods over unhealthy higher-calorie foods, according to new research by scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University and at Massachusetts General Hospital. Published online today in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes, a brain scan study in adult men and women suggests that it is possible to reverse the addictive power of unhealthy food while also increasing preference for healthy foods.

“We don’t start out in life loving French fries and hating, for example, whole wheat pasta,” said senior and co-corresponding author Susan B. Roberts, Ph.D., director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA, who is also a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and an adjunct professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine. “This conditioning happens over time in response to eating – repeatedly! - what is out there in the toxic food environment.”

Scientists have suspected that, once unhealthy food addiction circuits are established, they may be hard or impossible to reverse, subjecting people who have gained weight to a lifetime of unhealthy food cravings and temptation. To find out whether the brain can be re-trained to support healthy food choices, Roberts and colleagues studied the reward system in thirteen overweight and obese men and women, eight of whom were participants in a new weight loss program designed by Tufts University researchers and five who were in a control group and were not enrolled in the program.

Both groups underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans at the beginning and end of a six-month period. Among those who participated in the weight loss program, the brain scans revealed changes in areas of the brain reward center associated with learning and addiction. After six months, this area had increased sensitivity to healthy, lower-calorie foods, indicating an increased reward and enjoyment of healthier food cues. The area also showed decreased sensitivity to the unhealthy higher-calorie foods.

“The weight loss program is specifically designed to change how people react to different foods, and our study shows those who participated in it had an increased desire for healthier foods along with a decreased preference for unhealthy foods, the combined effects of which are probably critical for sustainable weight control,” said co-author Sai Krupa Das, Ph.D., a scientist in the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA and an assistant professor at the Friedman School. “To the best of our knowledge this is the first demonstration of this important switch.” The authors hypothesize that several features of the weight loss program were important, including behavior change education and high-fiber, low glycemic menu plans.

“Although other studies have shown that surgical procedures like gastric bypass surgery can decrease how much people enjoy food generally, this is not very satisfactory because it takes away food enjoyment generally rather than making healthier foods more appealing,” said first author and co-corresponding author Thilo Deckersbach, Ph.D., a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. “We show here that it is possible to shift preferences from unhealthy food to healthy food without surgery, and that MRI is an important technique for exploring the brain’s role in food cues.”

“There is much more research to be done here, involving many more participants, long-term follow-up and investigating more areas of the brain,” Roberts added. “But we are very encouraged that, the weight loss program appears to change what foods are tempting to people.”

health healthy food habbits

neurosciencestuff:

This is Your Brain’s Blood Vessels on Drugs
A new method for measuring and imaging how quickly blood flows in the brain could help doctors and researchers better understand how drug abuse affects the brain, which may aid in improving brain-cancer surgery and tissue engineering, and lead to better treatment options for recovering drug addicts. The new method, developed by a team of researchers from Stony Brook University in New York, USA and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was published today in The Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal Biomedical Optics Express.
The researchers demonstrated their technique by using a laser-based method of measuring how cocaine disrupts blood flow in the brains of mice. The resulting images are the first of their kind that directly and clearly document such effects, according to co-author Yingtian Pan, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Stony Brook University. “We show that quantitative flow imaging can provide a lot of useful physiological and functional information that we haven’t had access to before,” he says.
Drugs such as cocaine can cause aneurysm-like bleeding and strokes, but the exact details of what happens to the brain’s blood vessels have remained elusive—partly because current imaging tools are limited in what they can see, Pan says. But using their new and improved methods, the team was able to observe exactly how cocaine affects the tiny blood vessels in a mouse’s brain. The images reveal that after 30 days of chronic cocaine injection or even after just repeated acute injection of cocaine, there’s a dramatic drop in blood flow speed. The researchers were, for the first time, able to identify cocaine-induced microischemia, when blood flow is shut down—a precursor to a stroke.
Measuring blood flow is crucial for understanding how the brain is working, whether you’re a brain surgeon or a neuroscientist studying how drugs or disease influence brain physiology, metabolism and function, Pan said. Techniques like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) provide a good overall map of the flow of deoxygenated blood, but they don’t have a high enough resolution to study what happens inside tiny blood vessels called capillaries. Meanwhile, other methods like two-photon microscopy, which tracks the movement of red blood cells labeled with fluorescent dyes, have a small field of view that only measures few vessels at a time rather than blood flow in the cerebrovascular networks.
In the last few years, researchers including Pan and his colleagues have developed another method called optical coherence Doppler tomography (ODT). In this technique, laser light hits the moving blood cells and bounces back. By measuring the shift in the reflected light’s frequency—the same Doppler effect that causes the rise or fall of a siren’s pitch as it moves toward or away from you—researchers can determine how fast the blood is flowing.
It turns out that ODT offers a wide field of view at high resolution. “To my knowledge, this is a unique technology that can do both,” Pan said. And, it doesn’t require fluorescent dyes, which can trigger harmful side effects in human patients or leave unwanted artifacts—from interactions with a drug being tested, for example—when used for imaging animal brains.
Two problems with conventional ODT right now, however, are that it’s only sensitive to a limited range in blood-flow speeds and not sensitive enough to detect slow capillary flows, Pan explained. The researchers’ new method described in today’s Biomedical Optics Express paper incorporates a new processing method called phase summation that extends the range and allows for imaging capillary flows.
Another limitation of conventional ODT is that it doesn’t work when the blood vessel is perpendicular to the incoming laser beam. In an image, the part of the vessel that’s perpendicular to the line of sight wouldn’t be visible, instead appearing dark. But by tracking the blood vessel as it slopes up or down near this dark spot, the researchers developed a way to use that information to interpolate the missing data more accurately.
ODT can only see down to 1-1.5 millimeters below the surface, so the method is limited to smaller animals if researchers want to probe into deeper parts of the brain. But, Pan says, it would still be useful when the brain’s exposed in the operating room, to help surgeons operate on tumors, for example.
The new method is best suited to look at small blood vessels and networks, so it can be used to image the capillaries in the eye as well. Bioengineers can also use it to monitor the growth of new blood vessels when engineering tissue, Pan said. Additionally, information about blood flow in the brain could also be applied to developing new treatment options for recovering drug addicts.

neurosciencestuff:

This is Your Brain’s Blood Vessels on Drugs

A new method for measuring and imaging how quickly blood flows in the brain could help doctors and researchers better understand how drug abuse affects the brain, which may aid in improving brain-cancer surgery and tissue engineering, and lead to better treatment options for recovering drug addicts. The new method, developed by a team of researchers from Stony Brook University in New York, USA and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was published today in The Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal Biomedical Optics Express.

The researchers demonstrated their technique by using a laser-based method of measuring how cocaine disrupts blood flow in the brains of mice. The resulting images are the first of their kind that directly and clearly document such effects, according to co-author Yingtian Pan, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Stony Brook University. “We show that quantitative flow imaging can provide a lot of useful physiological and functional information that we haven’t had access to before,” he says.

Drugs such as cocaine can cause aneurysm-like bleeding and strokes, but the exact details of what happens to the brain’s blood vessels have remained elusive—partly because current imaging tools are limited in what they can see, Pan says. But using their new and improved methods, the team was able to observe exactly how cocaine affects the tiny blood vessels in a mouse’s brain. The images reveal that after 30 days of chronic cocaine injection or even after just repeated acute injection of cocaine, there’s a dramatic drop in blood flow speed. The researchers were, for the first time, able to identify cocaine-induced microischemia, when blood flow is shut down—a precursor to a stroke.

Measuring blood flow is crucial for understanding how the brain is working, whether you’re a brain surgeon or a neuroscientist studying how drugs or disease influence brain physiology, metabolism and function, Pan said. Techniques like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) provide a good overall map of the flow of deoxygenated blood, but they don’t have a high enough resolution to study what happens inside tiny blood vessels called capillaries. Meanwhile, other methods like two-photon microscopy, which tracks the movement of red blood cells labeled with fluorescent dyes, have a small field of view that only measures few vessels at a time rather than blood flow in the cerebrovascular networks.

In the last few years, researchers including Pan and his colleagues have developed another method called optical coherence Doppler tomography (ODT). In this technique, laser light hits the moving blood cells and bounces back. By measuring the shift in the reflected light’s frequency—the same Doppler effect that causes the rise or fall of a siren’s pitch as it moves toward or away from you—researchers can determine how fast the blood is flowing.

It turns out that ODT offers a wide field of view at high resolution. “To my knowledge, this is a unique technology that can do both,” Pan said. And, it doesn’t require fluorescent dyes, which can trigger harmful side effects in human patients or leave unwanted artifacts—from interactions with a drug being tested, for example—when used for imaging animal brains.

Two problems with conventional ODT right now, however, are that it’s only sensitive to a limited range in blood-flow speeds and not sensitive enough to detect slow capillary flows, Pan explained. The researchers’ new method described in today’s Biomedical Optics Express paper incorporates a new processing method called phase summation that extends the range and allows for imaging capillary flows.

Another limitation of conventional ODT is that it doesn’t work when the blood vessel is perpendicular to the incoming laser beam. In an image, the part of the vessel that’s perpendicular to the line of sight wouldn’t be visible, instead appearing dark. But by tracking the blood vessel as it slopes up or down near this dark spot, the researchers developed a way to use that information to interpolate the missing data more accurately.

ODT can only see down to 1-1.5 millimeters below the surface, so the method is limited to smaller animals if researchers want to probe into deeper parts of the brain. But, Pan says, it would still be useful when the brain’s exposed in the operating room, to help surgeons operate on tumors, for example.

The new method is best suited to look at small blood vessels and networks, so it can be used to image the capillaries in the eye as well. Bioengineers can also use it to monitor the growth of new blood vessels when engineering tissue, Pan said. Additionally, information about blood flow in the brain could also be applied to developing new treatment options for recovering drug addicts.

Life…

You have to lose in order to feel what winning is
You have to fail in order to grasp what success is
You have to feel sad in order to understand happiness
You have to struggle in order to praise a care free life
And you have to go through hearthbreak in order to cherish love

neurosciencestuff:

Train your heart to protect your mind
Exercising to improve our cardiovascular strength may protect us from cognitive impairment as we age, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Montreal and its affiliated Institut universitaire de gératrie de Montréal Research Centre. “Our body’s arteries stiffen with age, and the vessel hardening is believed to begin in the aorta, the main vessel coming out of the heart, before reaching the brain. Indeed, the hardening may contribute to cognitive changes that occur during a similar time frame,” explained Claudine Gauthier, first author of the study. “We found that older adults whose aortas were in a better condition and who had greater aerobic fitness performed better on a cognitive test. We therefore think that the preservation of vessel elasticity may be one of the mechanisms that enables exercise to slow cognitive aging.”
The researchers worked with 31 young people between the ages of 18 and 30 and 54 older participants aged between 55 and 75. This enabled the team to compare the older participants within their peer group and against the younger group who obviously have not begun the aging processes in question. None of the participants had physical or mental health issues that might influence the study outcome. Their fitness was tested by exhausting the participants on a workout machine and determining their maximum oxygen intake over a 30 second period. Their cognitive abilities were assessed with the Stroop task. The Stroop task is a scientifically validated test that involves asking someone to identify the ink colour of a colour word that is printed in a different colour (e.g. the word red could be printed in blue ink and the correct answer would be blue). A person who is able to correctly name the colour of the word without being distracted by the reflex to read it has greater cognitive agility.
The participants undertook three MRI scans: one to evaluate the blood flow to the brain, one to measure their brain activity as they performed the Stroop task, and one to actually look at the physical state of their aorta. The researchers were interested in the brain’s blood flow, as poorer cardiovascular health is associated with a faster pulse wave,at each heartbeat which in turn could cause damage to the brain’s smaller blood vessels. “This is first study to use MRI to examine participants in this way,” Gauthier said. “It enabled us to find even subtle effects in this healthy population, which suggests that other researchers could adapt our test to study vascular-cognitive associations within less healthy and clinical populations.”
The results demonstrated age-related declines in executive function, aortic elasticity and cardiorespiratory fitness, a link between vascular health and brain function, and a positive association between aerobic fitness and brain function. “The link between fitness and brain function may be mediated through preserved cerebrovascular reactivity in periventricular watershed areas that are also associated with cardiorespiratory fitness,” Gauthier said. “Although the impact of fitness on cerebral vasculature may however involve other, more complex mechanisms, overall these results support the hypothesis that lifestyle helps maintain the elasticity of arteries, thereby preventing downstream cerebrovascular damage and resulting in preserved cognitive abilities in later life.”

neurosciencestuff:

Train your heart to protect your mind

Exercising to improve our cardiovascular strength may protect us from cognitive impairment as we age, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Montreal and its affiliated Institut universitaire de gératrie de Montréal Research Centre. “Our body’s arteries stiffen with age, and the vessel hardening is believed to begin in the aorta, the main vessel coming out of the heart, before reaching the brain. Indeed, the hardening may contribute to cognitive changes that occur during a similar time frame,” explained Claudine Gauthier, first author of the study. “We found that older adults whose aortas were in a better condition and who had greater aerobic fitness performed better on a cognitive test. We therefore think that the preservation of vessel elasticity may be one of the mechanisms that enables exercise to slow cognitive aging.”

The researchers worked with 31 young people between the ages of 18 and 30 and 54 older participants aged between 55 and 75. This enabled the team to compare the older participants within their peer group and against the younger group who obviously have not begun the aging processes in question. None of the participants had physical or mental health issues that might influence the study outcome. Their fitness was tested by exhausting the participants on a workout machine and determining their maximum oxygen intake over a 30 second period. Their cognitive abilities were assessed with the Stroop task. The Stroop task is a scientifically validated test that involves asking someone to identify the ink colour of a colour word that is printed in a different colour (e.g. the word red could be printed in blue ink and the correct answer would be blue). A person who is able to correctly name the colour of the word without being distracted by the reflex to read it has greater cognitive agility.

The participants undertook three MRI scans: one to evaluate the blood flow to the brain, one to measure their brain activity as they performed the Stroop task, and one to actually look at the physical state of their aorta. The researchers were interested in the brain’s blood flow, as poorer cardiovascular health is associated with a faster pulse wave,at each heartbeat which in turn could cause damage to the brain’s smaller blood vessels. “This is first study to use MRI to examine participants in this way,” Gauthier said. “It enabled us to find even subtle effects in this healthy population, which suggests that other researchers could adapt our test to study vascular-cognitive associations within less healthy and clinical populations.”

The results demonstrated age-related declines in executive function, aortic elasticity and cardiorespiratory fitness, a link between vascular health and brain function, and a positive association between aerobic fitness and brain function. “The link between fitness and brain function may be mediated through preserved cerebrovascular reactivity in periventricular watershed areas that are also associated with cardiorespiratory fitness,” Gauthier said. “Although the impact of fitness on cerebral vasculature may however involve other, more complex mechanisms, overall these results support the hypothesis that lifestyle helps maintain the elasticity of arteries, thereby preventing downstream cerebrovascular damage and resulting in preserved cognitive abilities in later life.”