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.
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.
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 Improve 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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Researchers are proposing using artificial intelligence technology to help diagnose autism spectrum disorder.
In a recent 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.
WHAT IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)?
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.
The College encourages qualified students to pursue advanced individual study. The following plans supplement the regular course offerings and are available to students upon recommendation by their advisers.
If you have a deep interest and the motivation in your field of study, and you meet the standards set by the College and your major department, you have the opportunity to do honors study, an in-depth research project in close coordination with a faculty member. Learn more about the requirements for honors study.
Courses of individual study are available to qualified students, subject to the availability of staff time for supervision. The proposal for study must be approved by the instructor supervising the project and by the department or interdisciplinary program in which the project is to be conducted.
Many departments offer seminars in which students may have the opportunity to work independently on different aspects of their major field or area of interdisciplinary study and to discuss the results of their research. Consult the college catalog by major or minor for more information.
Some students plan to apply to graduate or professional schools. After assisting students with the process of identifying their advanced degree goals, career advisers refer these students to the College's pre-professional and graduate school advisers, and to discipline-specific faculty advisers.
A student who plans to undertake graduate study should examine specific requirements of particular graduate programs as early in the undergraduate years as possible. Attention is directed to the foreign language requirements of the graduate schools. The choice of languages and the degree of competence expected vary with both the major subject and the graduate school. Early consultation with the major adviser is strongly recommended.
Students intending to prepare for postgraduate entrance into law, business or medical school are urged to seek the advice of Connecticut College pre-law, pre-business or pre-health advisers early in the first year.
Graduate and professional school guides and test registration booklets are available in the Hale Center for Career Development. Information on medical and dental school admission tests are also available from the pre-health adviser. At the career fair held each fall, representatives from graduate programs staff tables and provide exhibits and literature about their institutions.
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 recent 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.
Well before ChatGPT reared its head and made AI a household course around the world, the medical world was already keen on using AI-powered tools. For years, scientists have tested out whether bots could be used to help diagnose diseases in people, especially when it comes to the attention to detail required in assessing medical imagery. The results have been startling—even in some creepy ways.
So it seems AI will play a role in medicine moving forward, perhaps sooner rather than later. A new study published by The Lancet Oncology on Tuesday found that AI used in breast cancer screenings is remarkably accurate. AI-supported screenings successfully diagnosed 20 percent more instances of cancers when compared to the standard double practicing of mammograms by two human radiologists. The use of AI did not increase false positive breast cancer diagnoses; and it in fact helped reduce the workload required in studying mammograms by a whopping 44 percent.
“These promising interim safety results should be used to inform new trials and program-based evaluations to address the pronounced radiologist shortage in many countries,” Kristina Lång, a breast cancer radiologist from Lund University in Sweden and the lead author of the new study, said in a press release. “But they are not enough on their own to confirm that AI is ready to be implemented in mammography screening. We still need to understand the implications on patients’ outcomes, especially whether combining radiologists’ expertise with AI can help detect interval cancers that are often missed by traditional screening, as well as the cost-effectiveness of the technology.”
Mammography can help in diagnosing breast cancer early when it’s far more treatable—but it’s not perfect. Current estimates suggest that 20 to 30 percent of cancers that should have been spotted in earlier screenings are missed. False positives also occur frequently.
Even when mammography works, it requires a great deal of time and attention from radiologists who are specialized in practicing mammograms. It can often take more than a decade for someone to be trained to properly read mammograms for signs of breast cancer.
Thus, some researchers believe AI could be used to alleviate that strain on resources. The new study is the first randomized trial to test out whether such a tool could help make breast cancer screenings safer and more efficient.
The paper is based on trials involving mammogram readings from 80,033 Swedish women, aged 40-80, between April 2021 and July 2022. Any women who had undergone a mammogram screening at four different health care sites in southwest Sweden during that time had their mammograms read by either a commercially available AI system designed to study mammograms (before also being read by one or two radiologists); or they were read exclusively by two trained radiologists (the control arm). Radiologists had final say on whether any women needed to be recalled for additional screenings due to suspicious findings.
AI-supported screening found one additional case of breast cancer for every 1,000 women screened than did the standard two-radiologist process. It also resulted in more recalls than helped lead to 41 more cancer diagnoses. Both methods resulted in the same 1.5 percent false positive rate.
The AI-supported method was also able to read more than 36,000 more readings than the standard approach; the researchers calculate it would have taken one radiologist assisted by AI 4 to 6 fewer months to read 40,000 examinations than the control arm in the same time.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to be cautious of the new findings. For one, all of the screenings happened in Sweden; it would be critical to learn how AI could operate on a much more diverse population of women (race and ethnicity information was not collected and used as part of any analysis of biases). The findings are also based on one single AI system, and cannot be generalized to other platforms.
And other studies have pointed out that AI could be a misleading crutch for some radiologists who aren’t exercising as much caution. In May, the journal Radiology published a study that found AI could impair decision-making by radiologists evaluating mammograms regardless of the physician’s level of expertise.
And AI systems are simply limited in the scope of how much they can evaluate based on a mammogram screening. In a comment published by the journal, Nerero Segnan, former director of Department of Screening at CPO Piemonte in Italy who wasn’t involved with the new study, highlighted an important question that lingers after the findings: “[I]s AI, when appropriately trained, able to capture relevant biological features—or, in other words, the natural history of the disease—such as the capacity of tumors to grow and disseminate?”
Nevertheless, there’s a clear need for more resources to help physicians make safer and faster diagnoses for breast cancer—and that paves the way for more study into AI could help. “The greatest potential of AI right now is that it could allow radiologists to be less burdened by the excessive amount of reading,” said Lång. “While our AI-supported screening system requires at least one radiologist in charge of detection, it could potentially do away with the need for double practicing of the majority of mammograms easing the pressure on workloads and enabling radiologists to focus on more advanced diagnostics while shortening waiting times for patients.”
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 recent 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.
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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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 give 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.