Brain News You Can Use

What Kind of Fat Is That? A recent study from the Women’s Health Study found that women who reported eating a diet higher in mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) performed better on tests of overall cognition and memory over time, while women whose diets were higher in saturated fatty acids (SFAs) showed an increased risk for cognitive deterioration and poor memory.  These findings, reported online in May 2012 in the Annals of Neurology, suggest that certain kinds of fats may matter to brain health in the same way as they do to our heart health and overall well-being (Okereke, Rosner, Kim et al. (2012). Dietary fat types and 4 –year cognitive change in community-dwelling older women. Ann Neurol.. doi: 10:1002/ana.23593)


How Does Memory Really Work, Anyway? A recent telephone survey using a nationally representative sample of 1838 persons found that misperceptions of how memory works were common, including that amnesia leads to an inability to remember one’s own identity (it doesn’t), that memory works like a video camera (it cannot), and that memory is permanent (nope!). Such misperceptions, the researchers concluded, underscore the discrepancy between the science of memory function and public belief, which has significant implications for policy and education (Simons and Chabris (2011). What people believe about how memory works: A representative survey of the U.S. population. PLoS ONE 6(8): e22757. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022757).


New Findings on Depression and Dementia Risk. While depression is more common in later life, and is often seen in early memory loss, the role mood disorders play in dementia risk is relatively unclear. A recent study of over 13,000 Kaiser Permanente members demonstrated that a chronic depression over adulthood may significantly increase risk for serious memory impairment, particularly vascular dementia. While the relationship between mood disorders and dementia risk remains unclear, this finding suggests that depression should be further explored as a potential risk factor for dementia. (Barnes, Yaffe, Byers et al. (2012). Mid-life vs. late life depressive symptoms and risk of dementia: Differential effects for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Arch Gen Psych 69(5):493-498. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.1481