When you need to remember something important, it makes sense to look around for hacks and tricks to maximize your recall. And plenty of those are out there, but do they actually work? One popular tip involves chewing a certain flavor of gum or spraying an specific scent in the air while you study or work, then using the same gum or scent when it’s time to perform, such as when you’re taking a text or presenting the material you went over. The tip relies on the so-called Proust Effect and if you use it, your mileage may vary.
Marcel Proust, a 20th-century writer you may already be familiar with, was the man who came up with the term “involuntary memory” to describe being hit with a memory because of a scent, taste, sound, or other sense-based trigger. As a reward for his efforts, he got this effect named after himself.
It’s a real thing that happens to the best of us: A sensory stimuli, like walking by someone wearing the perfume your mom used to wear, can jolt us into a vivid memory of the past. The phenomenon has resulted in a lot of research, because it’s deeply human but also deeply physiological and scientific.
When you search for studying and memory tips, this one comes up a lot. The University of Nebraska Kearney, for instance, recommends using unfamiliar scents as a “brain booster” by spraying a different scent every time you study a unique subject. Before your test in that subject, spray the corresponding scent because, they say, “this can help you recall information.”
Here’s the thing: Involuntary memories are more emotional than they are practical. Research shows that olfactory cues are much more effective at triggering emotional memories than visual cues are. The scent of a spray or the taste of a gum might transport you back to when you were studying, but it’s not guaranteed to help you remember the details of what you were studying so much as make you feel the way you felt when you were doing that.
It’s similar to the idea of changing into a designated “study outfit” when it’s time to hit the books in that way: Scents can help you compartmentalize and get in the zone, which can have a positive impact on your focus and output, but they aren’t the magic cure-all to make you remember entire passages of text.
Chewing strawberry gum while you study for chemistry and again when taking your chemistry test is more likely to help you feel like you’re in your chemistry zone than anything, which, again, can be helpful. To really remember what you studied, though, make sure to double up on hacks by using a study technique, such as interleaving or the primacy effect.
AI has gotten a lot of attention lately, especially services like ChatGPT, which can be used for everything from finding a good recipe to writing a blog post. A new study shows that it also might be a powerful tool in helping bad writers Boost their skills.
In a study published this week in Science, two MIT researchers examined whether ChatGPT could be used to reduce gaps in writing ability between employees. The duo recruited 453 data analysts, marketers, and college-educated professionals and asked them to perform two different writing tasks normally associated with their jobs—writing press releases or a short report, for instance.
Half of the participants were given the option of using ChapGPT to help them complete the second of the two tasks. Afterward, their work was graded by other professionals who worked in the same field on a scale of one to seven, with seven being the best result.
Overall, the participants who used ChatGPT did better than those who didn’t. ChatGPT users took 40% less time to complete their task than their counterparts, and their completed work scored 18% higher in evaluations than the work of those who didn’t use it.
The researchers note that while ChatGPT is powerful, it can also introduce errors, so people who use it to write for them will need to double-check that everything written by the AI tool is correct.
That said, the workers who participated in the study said they were more likely to use the tool in the future. "Workers exposed to ChatGPT during the experiment were 2 times as likely to report using it in their real job 2 weeks after the experiment and 1.6 times as likely 2 months after the experiment," the study found.
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A study published this week could help doctors to identify patients with brain injuries, in seemingly unresponsive states, who are more likely to recover.
In the study, published in the journal Brain on Monday, researchers identified what may be the source of a curious phenomenon known as "hidden consciousness" or cognitive motor dissociation (CMD).
Hidden consciousness is seen in patients with acute brain injury who appear to be in a coma or other unresponsive state.
Patients with CMD seem to be able to hear and comprehend verbal commands even though they cannot carry out those instructions because the body does not respond, study author Jan Claassen, a researcher at Columbia University and critical care neurologist at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, said in a statement.
The CMD phenomenon has only been identified in the past few years and is still poorly understood.
Methods have been developed to detect CMD in unresponsive patients. These include analyzing changes in electrical activity or cerebral blood flow recorded by an electroencephalogram (EEG) or functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) respectively. But both of these methods currently have their limitations.
Nevertheless, it is thought that around 15 to 20 percent of patients who appear to be in a coma or another unresponsive state display signs of CMD when evaluated with such methods, Claassen told Newsweek. The detection of CMD is reshaping our understanding of patients in comatose or other unresponsive states.
Clinicians define when a patient is in a "coma" purely based on the clinical examination, Claassen said. They apply this label to patients who display a complete absence of arousal (for example, eye opening) and awareness.
Patients with CMD do not seem to be able to follow commands and may in clinical examination appear to be in a coma.
But an analysis of EEG or functional MRI, recorded while patients are given verbal commands, reveals that the brains of these unresponsive patients are being activated in a similar way to conscious patients, Claassen said. This supports the interpretation that patients with CMD are to some degree conscious.
Identifying patients with CMD has important clinical implications for interactions, communication with families and the guidance of therapeutic decisions, according to the study.
Importantly, in prior research, Claassen and colleagues have been able to associate CMD with the recovery of consciousness and long-term recovery of independence in brain-damaged patients.
Researchers have been trying to develop more effective screening methods to identify which patients are likely to be in a state of hidden consciousness. But progress has been hampered by the fact that the brain mechanisms underlying the phenomenon have remained a mystery. This is where the latest study comes in.
In previous research, Claassen and colleagues found that subtle brainwaves detectable with EEG are the strongest predictor of hidden consciousness and eventual recovery for patients with brain injuries.
For the latest study, the scientists used EEG to examine 107 unresponsive patients with acute brain injury. Almost half of the patients appeared comatose, while one quarter were in a vegetative state—i.e. their eyes were open but they could not follow commands.
The remaining patents were in a minimally conscious state—meaning they could track an examiner with their eyes or look at them but were not able to follow any commands.
Using the EEG, scientists can identify when patients are trying, but are unable, to respond to a command such as "keep opening and closing your right hand."
This method detected CMD in 21 of the patients. The scientists then analyzed structural MRI brains scans from all the patients.
Using a special analysis technique, the team were able to identify patterns of brain injury that the patients with CMD shared and contrast those to the individuals who did not display signs of hidden consciousness.
The researchers found that all of the CMD patients had intact brain structures related to arousal and command comprehension. This supports the idea that they were able to hear and understand the verbal commands.
But they also found that the CMD patients had damage to brain regions responsible for integrating and carrying out motor commands, which is why they were unable to take action.
"Our study suggests that patients with hidden consciousness can hear and comprehend verbal commands, but they cannot carry out those commands because of injuries in brain circuits that relay instructions from the brain to the muscles," Claassen said in the statement.
The findings could lead to more frequent and earlier diagnosis of CMD. This, in turn, could help better predict which brain-injured individuals are more likely to recover with rehabilitation, according to the scientists.
More research is required before the approaches documented in the study can be applied to clinical practice. But the latest study shows that it may be possible to screen for CMD using widely available structural brain-imaging techniques.
Due to the technical complexity of CMD detection, at this time it is only available in a few academic centers. As a result, the vast majority of patients with hidden consciousness in the United States and around the world remain undiagnosed.
"Not every critical care unit may have resources and staff that is trained in using EEG to detect hidden consciousness, so MRI may offer a simple way to identify patients who require further screening and diagnosis," Claassen said in the statement.
Researchers are proposing using artificial intelligence technology to help diagnose autism spectrum disorder.
In a latest article published in Scientific Reports, researchers from Brazil, France and Germany reportedly used magnetic resonance imaging to train a machine learning algorithm.
The work – in which the "quantitative diagnostic method" is proposed – was based on brain imaging data for 500 people, with more than 240 that had been diagnosed with autism.
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Machine learning techniques were applied to the data.
"We began developing our methodology by collecting functional magnetic resonance imaging [fMRI] and electroencephalogram [EEG] data," Francisco Rodrigues, the last author of the article and a professor at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science, explained in a statement.
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"We compared maps of people with and without ASD and found that diagnosis was possible using this methodology," he added.
The machine learning algorithm was fed with the maps, and the system was able to determine which brain alterations were associated with autism with above 95% mean accuracy.
While previous research proposes methods for diagnosing autism based on machine learning, the article notes it often uses a single statistical parameter that is not brain network organization.
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Analyzing the fMRI data showed changes in certain brain regions associated with cognitive, emotional, learning and memory processes, and the cortical networks of autism patients showed more segregation, less distribution of information and less connectivity compared to controls.
"Until a few years ago, little was known about the alterations that lead to the symptoms of ASD. Now, however, brain alterations in ASD patients are known to be associated with certain behaviors, although anatomical research shows that the alterations are hard to see, making diagnosis of mild ASD much harder. Our study is an important step in the development of novel methodologies that can help us obtain a deeper understanding of this neurodivergence," Rodrigues said.
The methodology is under development and will take years to implement, according to the São Paulo Research Foundation, which supported the research.
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About one in 36 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Diagnosing the developmental disability can be difficult because there is no medical test, like a blood test, to do so.
Fact checked by Nick Blackmer
Adding more olive oil to your diet could reduce the risk of dying from dementia, new research shows.
Replacing just one teaspoon of margarine or mayonnaise with olive oil each day was associated with an 8–14% lower risk of dementia-related death.
Though the study is preliminary and does not prove causation, the findings are in line with dietary recommendations of using olive oil in place of margarine or mayonnaise for a healthier diet.
Replacing some fats like margarine or mayonnaise with olive oil in your diet could help reduce the risk of dying from dementia—a particularly important finding as many countries face rising rates of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
The claim comes from a new study presented Monday at NUTRITION 2023, the annual meeting of the American Society of Nutrition. It’s the first study to investigate the relationship between diet and dementia-related death.
“Our study reinforces dietary guidelines recommending vegetable oils such as olive oil and suggests that these recommendations not only support heart health but potentially brain health, as well,” presenting study author Anne-Julie Tessier, RD, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a news release. “Opting for olive oil, a natural product, instead of fats such as margarine and commercial mayonnaise is a safe choice and may reduce the risk of fatal dementia.”
Dementia is not a specific condition but an umbrella term for a range of conditions that involve losing the ability to think and remember enough to interfere with daily life and activities. Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more than 6 million Americans, is the most common form of dementia. It’s also considered fatal because it has no cure.
Related: How to Tell the Difference Between Normal Age-Related Memory Changes and Dementia
For the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal, scientists analyzed data from more than 90,000 Americans over the course of three decades—60,582 participants were women; 31,801 were men. Over the course of the study, 4,749 participants died from dementia.
Researchers found that participants who consumed more than half a tablespoon of olive oil each day had a 28% lower risk of dying from dementia, compared to those who never or rarely consumed olive oil.
Further, replacing 5 grams or about one teaspoon of margarine or mayonnaise a day with olive oil was associated with an 8–14% lower risk of fatal dementia. This was independent of overall diet quality, researchers said.
It’s also important to note that the individuals who died of dementia were more likely to be APOe4 carriers, a gene that increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and causes their bodies to make more cholesterol. Results were still consistent after adjusting for APOe4.
Though the research is observational and doesn’t prove that olive oil causes a reduced risk of fatal dementia, it does suggest that olive oil may have properties that are beneficial for brain health in addition to its heart health benefits.
“Some antioxidant compounds in olive oil can cross the blood-brain barrier, potentially having a direct effect on the brain,” Tessier said in the news release. “It is also possible that olive oil has an indirect effect on brain health by benefitting cardiovascular health.”
Related: A New Study Links Olive Oil Intake to Lower Risks of Heart Disease and Alzheimer&#39;s
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans already recommend limiting saturated fats and replacing them with unsaturated fats like olive oil to help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A 2021 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that the same olive oil measurement used in the new study—more than half a tablespoon of olive oil a day—was associated with a 14% lower risk of heart disease, compared to no olive oil consumption.
Olive oil has also been shown to help reduce inflammation and lessen the risk of type 2 diabetes. Replacing other fats like mayonnaise, butter, and margarine with olive oil has been associated with an 8–34% lower risk of death from all causes—including cancer-related mortality, neurodegenerative disease-related mortality, and respiratory disease-related mortality—as well.
While the new study has promising results and supports current research for the addition of olive oil as part of a healthy diet, more research needs to be done on olive oil’s impact on brain health and dementia-related death, and potentially determine optimal olive oil measurements.
Overall, the new research is in line with current dietary recommendations and adds even more evidence for using olive oil in place of other less-healthy fats like mayonnaise and margarine. It also offers hope that adopting healthy eating patterns that incorporate olive oil can help to prevent or slow down the progression of dementia.
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Read the original article on Health.
Aug. 1, 2023 – People with type 2 diabetes who drank the fermented tea beverage kombucha for a month lowered their blood sugar from dangerous to safe levels, a small new pilot study from Georgetown University shows.
Kombucha is made from tea fermented with bacteria and yeasts. The drink’s history dates back to 200 B.C. in China, and it has become so popular in latest years that it is stocked in major grocery stores and quick marts. This latest study, published Monday in Frontiers in Nutrition, logged the blood sugar levels of 12 people who drank 8 ounces of ginger-flavored kombucha daily for 4 weeks. It compared that data with their blood sugar levels during another 4-week period of drinking a similar-tasting placebo drink.
The average age of people in the study was 57 years old. Nine were women, six of the people were Black, and the other six were White. Nine were on insulin therapy.
On average, their fasting blood glucose levels decreased from 164 milligrams to 116 milligrams per deciliter after drinking kombucha. The American Diabetes Association recommends blood sugar levels before meals between 70 and 130 milligrams per deciliter, according to a summary of the research published by the university.
“Some laboratory and rodent studies of kombucha have shown promise, and one small study in people without diabetes showed kombucha lowered blood sugar, but to our knowledge, this is the first clinical trial examining effects of kombucha in people with diabetes,” researcher Dan Merenstein, MD, a Georgetown professor of human science and family medicine, said in a statement. “A lot more research needs to be done, but this is very promising.”
A strength of the research was that people were not told to change their diets during the study, Merenstein said.
The kombucha used in the study was made by Washington, DC-based maker Craft Kombucha, which is being rebranded as Brindle Boxer Kombucha. The researchers said the major bacteria and yeasts in kombucha are likely to be similar between varying brands and batches.
More than 33 million people in the U.S. have type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC. If it's not managed, the condition results in high blood sugar levels that can lead to heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
Puzzles, chess and writing journals may be more than pure amusements to pass the time. These brain activities could help reduce the risk of dementia.
According to a latest study in JAMA Network Open, activities related to adult literacy, such as taking classes, using a computer or writing journals, as well as active mental tasks like games, cards, or crossword puzzles, were related to a reduced dementia risk over 10 years.
The study looked at 10,318 adults in Australia who were 70 years old or older, who were generally healthy and without major cognitive impairment at enrollment.
The participants who engaged in literacy activities and active mental activities had an 11% and 9% lower, respectively, risk of dementia.
To a lesser extent, participating in creative artistic activities, such as crafts, woodwork, and painting or drawing, and in passive mental activities such as reading, watching TV or listening to the radio was also associated with reduced dementia risk, the study found. Creative artistic and passive mental activities both conferred a 7% decrease, according to the study.
“These results suggest that engagement in adult literacy, creative art, and active and passive mental activities may help reduce dementia risk in late life,” the study said.
The people in the study who developed dementia were older, more likely to be men and have lower levels of physical activity and to be in poorer health than individuals without dementia, the study said.
In 2022, there were 55 million individuals worldwide living with dementia, with 10 million new cases emerging annually, the study said. There’s no cure for dementia. As a result, “identifying new strategies to prevent or delay dementia onset among older individuals is a priority,” the study said.
These findings can help inform strategies for dementia prevention later life in terms of modifying daily routines and activities, the study said.
Fact checked by Sarah Scott
A new study suggests that taking vitamin D supplements may help protect older adults from major cardiovascular events, like heart attacks.
The study is relatively small and researchers and outside medical professionals alike emphasize the need for further research in order to clarify vitamin D's ability to contribute to heart health in this way.
Experts agree that lifestyle factors, like diet and exercise, are still the primary ways individuals can focus on prevention of heart attacks and other cardiovascular-related events.
Taking vitamin D supplements may help reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events (like heart attacks) for older adults, according to a new study.
The trial, which was based out of Australia, assessed 21,315 people who ranged from 60 to 84 years old. They randomly gave one group of 10,662 participants one capsule of 60,000 IU vitamin D, while a placebo was given to 10,653 participants.
The supplements and the placebo were taken orally by participants at the beginning of each month for up to 5 years, with the clinical trial starting in 2014 and concluding in 2020.
Researchers excluded people from the trial with a history of hypercalcemia, or high calcium levels, overactive thyroid, or hyperparathyroidism, kidney stones, osteomalacia, or "soft bones," sarcoidosis, which is an inflammatory disease, or who were already taking more than 500 IU per day of vitamin D supplements.
Study author Rachel Neale, PhD, told Health that there have been plenty of observational studies suggesting that the concentration of 25 hodroxy vitamin D [25(OH)D—the molecule that is measured to determine vitamin D status—in the bloodstream is "inversely associated with health outcomes."
The opposite has been examined less.
While the largest clinical trial of its kind, the researchers acknowledge that the study was relatively small, and more work needs to be done to understand the effectiveness of these kinds of supplements, especially in people who are taking statins or other medications to manage cardiovascular disease.
Neale, who also serves as the deputy coordinator of the Population Health Department at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, noted that the association between vitamin D and cardiovascular health risk may not be causal.
"Randomized controlled trials are needed to determine whether supplementing people with vitamin D would Boost health outcomes," she said.
Over the course of the trial, 1,336 of the participants experienced a major cardiovascular event—this was evenly divided between the placebo and vitamin D supplement groups.
The research team found that 6.6% of those in the placebo group and 6% in the supplement group experienced a cardiovascular event during those five years.
Those in the vitamin D supplement group seemed better protected from these heart disease events; this group experienced a rate of major cardiovascular events that was 9% lower compared to what was seen in the placebo group.
This comes out to about 5.8 fewer cardiovascular events per 1,000 participants. The heart attack and coronary rates were 19% and 11% lower, respectively, in the vitamin D group. That being said, the rate of stroke showed no difference between the placebo and supplement groups.
Related: 26 Symptoms of Low Vitamin D You Need to Know About
When asked what is known about vitamin D and its impact on heart health, Boback Ziaeian, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in the Division of Cardiology, told Health that there are many studies out there on vitamin D "that span basic sciences, observational research, and clinical trials."
That being said, it's only very recently that we've started seeing large randomized trials like this one that focus on vitamin D supplements as a mechanism to prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even dementia.
"These trials have all largely been negative for their primary endpoint design. The latest Australian study is the first large study to suggest a possible benefit and that is very uncertain," said Ziaeian, who is unaffiliated with this clinical trial.
Essentially, more needs to be examined here.
Neale said that there are a number of different potential mechanisms inherent in vitamin D that could be beneficial for your heart.
She mentioned that vitamin D "can influence the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, which influences blood volume and vascular resistance." She also noted that vitamin D can also lower inflammation and "reduce cardiac remodeling."
"People have hyped Vitamin D for a long time, but blood levels are heavily confounded by other lifestyle factors like how much time someone spends outdoors or not having other chronic diseases," Ziaeian said.
"So, overall, there's no good evidence that supplementing people with vitamin D does anything beneficial for their health unless they cannot produce it, such as patients with severe kidney disease."
Ziaeian said that he doesn't believe we will see a future where vitamin D supplementation will be part of a prescription from your doctor.
"Looking at the literature overall, I think it is very unlikely that we would find many benefits for any vitamin supplementation that for vitamins we normally ingest with normal food intake or that our body produces," he said.
Neale said that "uncertainty in the evidence may not ever be completely resolved." She said this leaves medical providers in a "somewhat difficult position" when it comes to prescribing vitamin D supplements, outside of treating vitamin D deficiency.
"I would emphasize that even if our findings do indicate a real effect of vitamin D, it is not a magic bullet," she said. "Diet and exercise will play a much more important role."
Related: 12 Foods That Are Good Sources of Vitamin D
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Read the original article on Health.
A SCOBY may look pretty gross, but new research suggests the bacteria and yeast glob could help Type 2 diabetics lower their blood sugar levels.
The study found participants who consumed 8 ounces of kombucha for four weeks saw their blood sugar levels decrease from 164 to 116 milligrams per deciliter.
Scientists from Georgetown University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the nonprofit MedStar Health reported the findings Tuesday in the Frontiers in Nutrition journal.
Kombucha, a fermented, sweetened black tea drink produced from a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, has long been touted as healthy, based on claims it enhances immunity and energy levels, reduces food cravings and alleviates gut inflammation.
“Some laboratory and rodent studies of kombucha have shown promise, and one small study in people without diabetes showed kombucha lowered blood sugar,” study co-author Dr. Dan Merenstein, a professor at Georgetown’s School of Health, said in a statement.
“But to our knowledge, this is the first clinical trial examining effects of kombucha in people with diabetes,” he continued. “A lot more research needs to be done, but this is very promising.”
In the study, one group drank the kombucha while another downed a placebo beverage.
No one was told which drink they were receiving.
After a two-month period to “wash out” the biological effects of the beverages, the mixtures were swapped between the groups, who were directed to drink their new concoction for four weeks.
The placebo beverage didn’t seem to have any effect on blood sugar levels.
The American Diabetes Association advises that fasting blood sugar levels should be between 80 to 130 milligrams per deciliter.
Participants drank kombucha produced by Craft Kombucha, a commercial manufacturer in the D.C. area.
The study authors noted different brands of kombucha have slightly varying microbial mixtures.
“However, the major bacteria and yeasts are highly reproducible and likely to be functionally similar between brands and batches, which was reassuring for our trial,” said Dr. Robert Hutkins, the study’s senior author.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 37 million Americans have diabetes, and 90% to 95% of them have Type 2 diabetes.
Approximately 96 million American adults — more than 1 in 3 — have prediabetes.
“Diabetes itself is the eighth leading cause of death in the US as well as being a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney failure,” lead study author Dr. Chagai Mendelson said.
Mendelson said further studies are needed to assess kombucha’s effect on diabetes.
“We hope that a much larger trial, using the lessons we learned in this trial, could be undertaken to provide a more definitive answer to the effectiveness of kombucha in reducing blood glucose levels, and hence prevent or help treat Type 2 diabetes,” he added.