Promising results from initial study of possible new way to stimulate memory in older adults

So, this is interesting news about a possible new way to stimulate memory in older people:

Pulsing electrical currents through the brain for 20 minutes can boost memory for older adults for at least a month, according to a new study.

Around 8 percent of people in the US get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia as they get older — significantly impairing their memory — and an even larger group of older adults has some degree of age-related memory loss. This new study is only a first look at a potential solution. But easy, quick treatments like this one could become even more important as the world’s population rapidly ages — especially if future research shows that it can help with more serious cognitive conditions.

The brain stimulation done in this study, published Monday in Nature Neuroscience, came from a swim cap-like device studded with electrodes positioned to deliver the electric current to specific areas of the brain. The research team was interested in two main areas: one that’s linked with working memory (which holds information temporarily and overlaps with short-term memory) and another linked with long-term memory.

The research team divided 60 participants between the ages of 65 and 88 into three groups: one group wore the device but didn’t get any electrical stimulation; the second received stimulation in the region associated with working memory; and the third received stimulation in the area associated with long-term memory. For four consecutive days, the participants received the treatment (or fake treatment) while performing a memory task where they were read a list of 20 words and asked to recall them. The researchers looked to see how often they remembered the words at the beginning of the list (long-term memory) and the end of the list (working memory).

Both working and long-term memory improved over the course of the four days, the study found. “We watched the memory improvements accumulate over time with each passing day,” said study author Robert Reinhart, a professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, during a press briefing. And participants still had improved memory one month later.

And it might have applications to other neurodegenerative conditions.

Too early to tell, of course.

But if it’s in Nature Neuroscience, there’s a pretty good chance that some high-caliber reviewers thought it to be interesting enough to publish in that high-impact journal.

You can read the rest of the The Verge article at this link.

Is lavender oil bad for you?

The only things I use regularly in my life that might be construed as “earthy crunchy” are a few scented candles and a bit of lavender oil when I take a bath.

Not too much though, otherwise I’ll reek of the stuff. Just enough to make my bath water smell nice for a hot soak that I take if I’m particularly stressed.

But the stuff may not be as harmless as I thought, as this article by By Lucy Papachristou in the Wall Street Journal suggests. The EU might even regulate it as a hazardous substance, which has French lavender farmers ready to revolt.

Alain Aubanel has a new worry on top of the wildfires, high energy costs and unreliable supply chains plaguing his part of southeastern France. He fears that the oil derived from the lavender he grows will soon be labeled in Europe with a skull and crossbones.

Mr. Aubanel is president of a farmers’ union representing 2,000 lavender growers in southern France, whose product turns acres of land a hazy purple in summer. It is a business he says would be threatened if the European Union follows through with proposed changes that would designate lavender oil, used widely to calm nerves and boost low moods, as a hazardous substance.

New research suggests there may be more harmful effects, with one study linking lavender oil to early puberty in girls and another to abnormal breast growth in young boys. Contact with even a small amount of an endocrine disrupter can upset homeostasis, the body’s self-regulating process to maintain internal stability, scientists say.

“The moment you deviate from homeostasis, you do harm in one way, and if you continue to do that, it will have consequences,” said Josef Köhrle, an endocrinologist at the Charité–Berlin University of Medicine and member of the European Society of Endocrinology.

Lavender farmers have been up in arms since news of the pending regulation changes broke last year. I

“Lavender producers are in big trouble. The regulatory impact can kill them,” said Mr. Aubanel, a third-generation lavender farmer in the mountains south of Grenoble. “It is the only crop that allows farmers to make a living out of their work in dry mountain territories,” said grower Alain Aubanel.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, is adopting new rules to regulate substances that may be harmful to humans. One such substance is lavender oil, which some studies show disrupts hormone patterns and contains small amounts of carcinogens.

Mr. Aubanel, who called the planned changes discriminatory, has a simple message for the commission: “Bring back common sense and scientific information.”

I think I’ll still use it now and then, sparingly. I might feel differently if I had small kids.

You can read the rest of the story here.

A lavender farm in Provence.