Are There Natural Remedies For Cognitive Aging?

More than 30 countries now have a life expectancy of 80 or more, a dramatic increase over the last half century. This is good news, but it also brings challenges. The aging brain goes through predictable changes, and as a result, old age is usually accompanied by some cognitive decline, even dementia.

Happily, some of the risk factors for mental aging are open to intervention. Diet, exercise and mental activity all play a role in healthy aging, but there are also natural pharmaceuticals that may be of use in staving off decline. Psychological scientists Con Stough and Matthew Pase of Swinburne University of Technology, in Australia, have been studying various pharmacological interventions, and recently put together a status report on their effectiveness in preserving abilities like memory and reasoning. Here’s what’s known so far:

• Ginkgo biloba. Scientists have extensively investigated this natural supplement, taken from the Ginkgo biloba tree. One extract, known as EGb 761, is of special interest, because it acts in several ways that may be relevant to mental aging. It has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and also improves blood flow, glucose metabolism and synapse function.

But clinical results have been mixed. One review found no consistent evidence of benefit —> Read More Here

Big Data Arrives on a Small Lake in Vermont

Photo: Blue-green algae bloom on Shelburne Pond. Credit: Lisa Borre.
A blue-green algae bloom on Shelburne Pond in late July. (Photo by Lisa Borre.)

While visiting Vermont in late July, I took a day to catch up with colleagues who are studying lakes. University of Vermont (UVM) Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory director Jason Stockwell arranged for me to go out on a sampling run with two interns. Our destination was Shelburne Pond, a shallow lake located about ten miles south of Burlington. The hyper-eutrophic lake was the subject of my undergraduate thesis research, “Internal Sources of Phosphorus in Shelburne Pond, Vermont.” I was interested to learn about the latest round of research there and invited college friends Jennifer Curtin and Sara Thompson to join me for the outing.

A large frontal system had moved through the day before, leaving behind a quintessential Vermont summer day: clear skies with air temperatures in the 70s. Puffy white clouds floated by. It was not unlike the day I arrived in 1985 as a geology student to collect samples and discovered that a massive fish kill had occurred the night before.

A Tipping Point: Massive Fish Kill in the mid-1980s

On that day over a quarter century ago, thousands of fish were floating belly-up, perch, —> Read More Here

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