So you're probably sick of hearing how you need to drink more water, but despite all the efforts to get Americans to drink more water, 75% of us are still chronically dehydrated. Many of the benefits of staying hydrated are well known, but here's a lesser known, but crucial reason to drink more H2O. A new report shows that when you drink water, your brain works better.
"Lot's of studies have shown that dehydration is linked to poor performance on memory and attention tasks," says Caroline Edmonds, PhD, University of East London senior psychology lecturer.
Some research has shown, for example, that fluid-filled spaces in the brain become enlarged when someone is dehydrated, which causes brain tissue to shrink and makes it harder to think. Thirst can be maddeningly distracting, too. When it's gone, the brain is free to focus on more important things.
To test water's brain-boosting power, Edmonds asked 34 thirsty men and women to perform a series of mental tasks, measuring their reaction time, memory, and learning capabilities. Half were given water; the other half weren't. The subjects who guzzled about 2 cups of water before completing the tasks increased their reaction time by 14%. In addition, the water drinkers felt happier, less confused, and more relaxed.
March 12, 2014
March 10, 2014
February 17, 2014
Swarms of morning commuters clutch cups of coffee to kick-start the workday. But a new study suggests caffeine might do more for the brain than boost alertness -- it may help memory too.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University looked at caffeine's impact on memory while excluding its other brain-enhancing factors. The study showed that caffeine enhances certain memories for up to 24 hours after it's consumed.
"The finding that caffeine has an effect on this process in humans -- the process of making memories more permanent, less forgettable -- was one of the big novelties," said study author Michael Yassa, an assistant professor of neurobiology and behavior at the University of California, Irvine, who conducted the research while at Johns Hopkins.
The study, which was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the U.S. National Science Foundation, included more than 100 participants who were "caffeine naive," meaning they were not big coffee, tea or cola drinkers, Yassa said.
"We picked people who were getting less than 500 milligrams of caffeine a week," he said. "Most weren't coffee drinkers. Most had a soda once or twice a week."
Coffee's caffeine content varies greatly. Most average-size cups contain about 160 milligrams (mg), Yassa said. But a 16-ounce cup of Starbucks coffee packs 330 mg of caffeine, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
A dose of at least 200 mg of caffeine was needed to enhance memory consolidation, the researchers said.
For the study, which was published online Jan. 12 in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the researchers asked the participants to look at hundreds of common, everyday images on a computer screen: shoes, a chair, a rubber duck, etc.
"We asked them to tell us if it was an indoor or an outdoor object, but we didn't really care about what they said," Yassa said. "We just wanted them to attend to the object, to get that object into their brains."
Five minutes after the participants looked at the images, half were given 200 milligrams of caffeine and half received a placebo. They returned 24 hours later, after the caffeine was out of their system, and looked at more images of objects. They were asked to label the pictures as either old, new or similar to the original images they'd seen (for example, a picture of a duck they viewed the day before, but taken from a slightly different angle).
People who had taken the caffeine were better at distinguishing the similar pictures from the original ones, and those who had received the placebo were more likely to incorrectly identify the similar images as the old images, the researchers said.
Yassa said the caffeine-induced ability to recognize similar, but not identical, images did not occur when people were given smaller doses of caffeine or when caffeine was ingested an hour before the picture test.
"On caffeine, the participants were more likely to identify the similar items correctly as similar and not old," he said. "In doing so, this demonstrates that the caffeine enhanced the brain's consolidation process -- the process of making those items more permanent in their memory."
The idea, Yassa said, is that outside the lab, you could have the same benefit from your caffeine habit.
"It might allow you to remember things -- to retain memories -- for a longer period of time and with more precision, even if you eliminate the other benefits of caffeine, like attention, alertness and vigilance," Yassa said.
Dr. David Knopman, a professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said the results are interesting from a pharmacologic perspective. "Taking it at face value, it's interesting research," Knopman said. "It raises some questions about what's involved in learning and how certain drugs might enhance learning in normal people."
But Knopman said he doesn't think the finding has any practical significance for people with memory loss due to Alzheimer's disease.
Yassa, who also studies aging and Alzheimer's, said more research is needed to figure out why caffeine might enhance memory.
The study didn't actually prove that caffeine improves memory, however. One limitation of the study is that participants knew they were involved in caffeine research, the researchers said.
In the United States, 80 percent of adults consume caffeine every day, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
SOURCES: Michael Yassa, Ph.D., assistant professor, neurobiology and behavior, University of California, Irvine, formerly of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.; David Knopman, M.D., professor, neurology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Jan. 12, 2014,Nature Neuroscience, online
November 27, 2013
October 23, 2013
A beautiful new video from "The Sagan Series" — an open-source project dedicated to spreading scientific literacy — has brought the words of the late astronomer, Carl Sagan, to life.
The video combines audio from Sagan's audiobook with footage of the world's most significant leaders, cultural events and natural beauty, stitching them together to create a complete picture of life on Earth. In its closing moments, Sagan makes a compelling plea for humans to take better care of one another and our planet.
September 26, 2013
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin jointly announced today having achieved a new world record for the conversion of sunlight into electricity using a new solar cell structure with four solar subcells. Surpassing competition after only over three years of research, and entering the roadmap at world class level, a new record efficiency of 44.7% was measured at a concentration of 297 suns. This indicates that 44.7% of the solar spectrum's energy, from ultraviolet through to the infrared, is converted into electrical energy. This is a major step towards reducing further the costs of solar electricity and continues to pave the way to the 50% efficiency roadmap.
Back in May 2013, the German-French team of Fraunhofer ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin had already announced a solar cell with 43.6% efficiency. Building on this result, further intensive research work and optimization steps led to the present efficiency of 44.7%.
These solar cells are used in concentrator photovoltaics (CPV), a technology which achieves more than twice the efficiency of conventional PV power plants in sun-rich locations. The terrestrial use of so-called III-V multi-junction solar cells, which originally came from space technology, has prevailed to realize highest efficiencies for the conversion of sunlight to electricity. In this multi-junction solar cell, several cells made out of different III-V semiconductor materials are stacked on top of each other. The single subcells absorb different wavelength ranges of the solar spectrum.
"We are incredibly proud of our team which has been working now for three years on this four-junction solar cell," says Frank Dimroth, Department Head and Project Leader in charge of this development work at Fraunhofer ISE. "This four-junction solar cell contains our collected expertise in this area over many years. Besides improved materials and optimization of the structure, a new procedure called wafer bonding plays a central role. With this technology, we are able to connect two semiconductor crystals, which otherwise cannot be grown on top of each other with high crystal quality. In this way we can produce the optimal semiconductor combination to create the highest efficiency solar cells."
"This world record increasing our efficiency level by more than 1 point in less than 4 months demonstrates the extreme potential of our four-junction solar cell design which relies on Soitec bonding techniques and expertise," says André-Jacques Auberton-Hervé, Soitec's Chairman and CEO. "It confirms the acceleration of the roadmap towards higher efficiencies which represents a key contributor to competitiveness of our own CPV systems. We are very proud of this achievement, a demonstration of a very successful collaboration."
"This new record value reinforces the credibility of the direct semiconductor bonding approaches that is developed in the frame of our collaboration with Soitec and Fraunhofer ISE. We are very proud of this new result, confirming the broad path that exists in solar technologies for advanced III-V semiconductor processing," said Leti CEO Laurent Malier. Concentrator modules are produced by Soitec (started in 2005 under the name Concentrix Solar, a spin-off of Fraunhofer ISE). This particularly efficient technology is employed in solar power plants located in sun-rich regions with a high percentage of direct radiation. Presently Soitec has CPV installations in 18 different countries including Italy, France, South Africa and California.
September 24, 2013
There really is an app for everything -- including brushing your teeth.
Procter & Gamble has launched a new app under its Oral-B brand designed to help consumers have more understanding about their oral health care.
“At P&G Oral Care, the ultimate vision is perfect oral health,” Kris Parlett, senior communications manager for Oral-B Power, tells Marketing Daily. “If you look at the trends in oral care, health care and consumer behavior, they’re all converging on health care apps.”
The new app, available free through the App Store, works with Oral-B’s power toothbrushes to provide a timer and “quadrant guide” to ensure even and thorough tooth cleaning. It also includes a statistics function to chart brushing sessions and a content feed of calendar events, news and weather to keep people’s attention while brushing for a two-minute session.
“We are all so used to constant stimulation, and [this is] turning an everyday chore into something productive,” Parlett says. “With our children’s products, we know if you provide kids with an activity for their brushing, they’ll go for the entire two minutes.”
September 19, 2013
|A new "smart tooth" could help people track their health by |
revealing exactly how much time is spent
eating, drinking and talking.
In a study, the scientists used dental cement to glue sensors onto the teeth of eight volunteers. The devices were accelerometers that recognized movement in all three dimensions, and were coated with dental resin to keep them safe from saliva. Thin wires connected to the sensors helped collect their data.
The researchers had the volunteers chew gum, drink a bottle of water, cough or read a section of an article. The participants spent about 40 seconds on each activity.
"Our mouth is an opening into our health — our drinking and eating behaviors shed light on our diet," said researcher Hao-hua Chu, a computer scientist at National Taiwan University in Taipei. "How frequently we cough also tells us about our health, and how frequently we talk is related to social activity that can be related to health."
Each of these activities moves teeth in a unique way. When it came to recognizing what a study participant was doing based solely on data from the devices, the system researchers developed was up to 93.8 percent accurate.
Chu said his 11-year-old daughter helped inspire him to invent these "smart teeth."
"Unfortunately, she has to go to dentist a lot," he told LiveScience. "That got me to thinking — is there a way to integrate digital technology into artificial teeth?"
The scientists also took removable artificial teeth and embedded accelerometers in them. Future prototypes will include small Bluetooth radios capable of wirelessly transmitting sensor data to nearby mobile devices for analysis.
"Your future dentist can offer two options for artificial teeth — the first one is a traditional artificial tooth, and the second option is a smart tooth that you can use to record your activity," Chu said. "We might also be able to put in a small energy harvester to provide enough power to run the device for a day at least, instead of taking the tooth out and recharging it."
Additional sensors added to smart teeth could help detect even more detailed information; for instance, what people are eating, Chu added.
Chu with Polly Huang, and their colleagues Cheng-Yuan Li, Yen-Chang Chen and Wei-Ju Chen presented their work Sept. 11 at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers in Switzerland.
Watch the video below for more information:
Watch the video below for more information:
September 17, 2013
When I was a teenager my primary care doctor told me that "It doesn't matter what you eat until your late 20's because that is when your metabolism starts to decline". It sounded like bad advice at the time, and even worse now, being that the latest medical research is proving our diets and activity levels as children are largely linked to our health later in life:
Obese children have a four times greater risk of having high blood pressure when they reach adulthood compared to normal weight kids, new research shows.
The study authors also found that overweight children had double the risk of high blood pressure, or hypertension, later in life.
"We've shown that the risk for hypertension starts in childhood," said study author Dr. Sara Watson, a pediatric endocrinology fellow at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University in Indianapolis. "That period is very important. There are changes in obese children that contribute to risk of cardiometabolic diseases." So-called cardiometabolic diseases are caused by high blood pressure, high blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and excess belly fat.
If left unchecked, high blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke.
Starting in 1986, the researchers tracked the development of over 1,100 healthy adolescents from Indianapolis. Doctors checked their height, weight and blood pressure twice a year, finding that about two-thirds were normal weight, while 16 percent were obese and 16 percent were overweight.
The researchers followed up this year with the now-adult study participants. About 26 percent of obese children had ended up with high blood pressure as adults, compared with 14 percent of overweight children and just 6 percent of normal weight children. The team was scheduled to report on its data Thursday at an American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans.
Watson said the increased risk for kids who are simply overweight is in some ways more troubling than the risk associated for obese children.
"The risk is double for the kids that are overweight," Watson said. "Right now, a lot of our focus is on obese children, but I think it's important when kids are in the overweight category to address them as well, because their risk is high, too."
The 27-year study is important "because there are relatively few studies that have been done looking at the long-term impact of childhood obesity on adult health," said Myles Faith, an associate professor of nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill. "It takes a long time to see the development of disease, and following children over time is a mighty work. These long-term studies are a precious resource for science."
Families and pediatricians need to keep an eye on kids' body mass index (BMI) and take steps to help children control their weight, Faith and Watson said. BMI is a measurement based on height and weight. Parents should insist that pediatricians track their child's BMI, and be ready to participate in healthy eating and exercise.
"We have good evidence that family treatments for childhood obesity can improve BMI and can improve blood pressure in adolescents," Faith said. "Strategies involving the family can be helpful in reducing childhood obesity. It's important to think of this for the family unit as well."
Other studies presented at the heart association meeting also touched upon children and high blood pressure.
Children who have one or more high blood pressure readings are three times more likely to develop hypertension as adults, one report discovered.
Using the same pool of Indianapolis kids, researchers found that the rate of high blood pressure during adulthood was 8.6 percent for children who didn't have a high reading when they were young. That rate jumped to 18 percent for adults who had at least one high reading as a kid, and 35 percent for adults who had two or more high readings as children.
"This study highlights the need for pediatricians to regularly check blood pressure and weight," study author Wanzhu Tu, a professor of biostatistics at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, said in a news release from the American Heart Association. "An occasional increase in blood pressure does not justify treatment, but it does justify following these children more carefully."
Other research found that measuring the sodium levels of a child's urine can help doctors identify those at risk for adult hypertension.
Doctors used a urine screen to test the amount of sodium retention in a group of 19 children. Sodium retention increases fluid in the blood vessels, which can raise blood pressure.
Eight children were found to be retaining sodium, and of those kids, seven also had high blood pressure.
"Hypertension is no longer an adult disease," senior researcher Gregory Harshfield, director of the Institute of the Georgia Prevention Center at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, explained in the news release.
SOURCES: Sara Watson, M.D., pediatric endocrinology fellow, Riley Hospital for Children, Indiana University, Indianapolis; Myles Faith, Ph.D., associate professor, nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; American Heart Association, news release, Sept. 12, 2013; Sept. 12, 2013, presentation, American Heart Association's High Blood Pressure Research scientific sessions, New Orleans