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Maintaining positive, warm and trusting friendships might be the key to a slower decline in memory and cognitive functioning, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study. SuperAgers — who are 80 years of age and older who have cognitive ability at least as good as people in their 50s or 60s — reported having more satisfying, high-quality relationships compared to their cognitively average, same-age peers, the study reports. Previous SuperAger research at the Cognitive Neurology…

Daily exposure to bright white light at midday significantly decreased symptoms of depression and increased functioning in people with bipolar disorder, a recent Northwestern Medicine study found. Previous studies found morning bright light therapy reduced symptoms of depression in patients with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD.). But patients with bipolar disorder can experience side effects such as mania or mixed symptoms from this type of depression treatment. This study implemented a novel midday light therapy intervention…

Gentle sound stimulation — such as the rush of a waterfall — synchronized to the rhythm of brain waves significantly enhanced deep sleep in older adults and improved their ability to recall words, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study. Deep sleep is critical for memory consolidation. But beginning in middle age, deep sleep decreases substantially, which scientists believe contributes to memory loss in aging. The sound stimulation significantly enhanced deep sleep in participants and their…

A new Northwestern Medicine study found evidence suggesting how neural dysfunction in a certain region of the brain can lead to obsessive and repetitive behaviors much like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Both in humans and in mice, there is a circuit in the brain called the corticostriatal connection that regulates habitual and repetitive actions. The study found certain synaptic receptors are important for the development of this brain circuit. If these receptors are eliminated in mice,…

A rigorous Northwestern University study of a quarter-century of data has found that economic insecurity is related to the rate of gun violence at K-12 and postsecondary schools in the United States. When it becomes more difficult for people coming out of school to find jobs, the rate of gun violence at schools increases. The interdisciplinary study by data scientists Adam R. Pah and Luís Amaral and sociologist John L. Hagan reveals a persistent connection…

Northwestern Medicine scientists showed for the first time that non-invasive brain stimulation can be used like a scalpel, rather than like a hammer, to cause a specific improvement in precise memory. Precise memory, rather than general memory, is critical for knowing details such as the specific color, shape and location of a building you are looking for, rather than simply knowing the part of town it’s in. This type of memory is crucial for normal…

Soon you can seek mental health advice on your smartphone as quickly as finding a good restaurant. A novel suite of 13 speedy mini-apps called IntelliCare resulted in participants reporting significantly less depression and anxiety by using the apps on their smartphones up to four times a day, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study. The apps offer exercises to de-stress, reduce self-criticism and worrying, methods to help your life feel more meaningful, mantras to highlight…

Preterm babies perform as well as their full-term counterparts in a developmental task linking language and cognition, a new study from Northwestern University has found. The study, the first of its kind with preterm infants, tests the relative contributions of infants’ experience and maturational status. Northwestern researchers compared healthy preterm and full-term infants at the same maturational age, or age since conception. The results show a robust early link between language and cognition in preterm…

The violence that women in disadvantaged neighborhoods experience and witness can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and full diagnoses, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study that examined a disadvantaged Chicago neighborhood. Also noteworthy, women with PTSD diagnosis or sub-threshold PTSD had significantly more severe depression symptoms than women in the study who didn’t report experiencing trauma. Every woman who was recruited had symptoms of depression. “There are many women who are affected…

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall. These effects on behavior depend critically on whether you inhale or exhale and whether you breathe through the nose or mouth. In the study, individuals were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they encountered the face when breathing in compared to breathing out. Individuals…

Many people have speculated on the evolutionary functions of the human orgasm, but the underlying mechanisms have remained mysterious. In a new paper, a Northwestern University researcher seeks to shed light on how orgasm works in the brain. Adam Safron, a neuroscientist and Ph.D. candidate in the psychology department’s Brain Behavior Cognition program in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern, reviewed related studies and literature over many years to come up with…

Scientists have identified for the first time the region in the brain responsible for the “placebo effect” in pain relief, when a fake treatment actually results in substantial reduction of pain, according to new research from Northwestern Medicine and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). Pinpointing the sweet spot of the pain killing placebo effect could result in the design of more personalized medicine for the 100 million Americans with chronic pain. The fMRI technology…

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered a new pathway in the brain that can be manipulated to alleviate depression. The pathway offers a promising new target for developing a drug that could be effective in individuals for whom other antidepressants have failed. New antidepressant options are important because a significant number of patients don’t adequately improve with currently available antidepressant drugs. The lifetime prevalence of major depressive disorder is between 10 to 20 percent of the…

Relying on clinical symptoms of memory loss to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease may miss other forms of dementia caused by Alzheimer’s that don’t initially affect memory, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study. “These individuals are often overlooked in clinical trial designs and are missing out on opportunities to participate in clinical trials to treat Alzheimer’s,” said first study author Emily Rogalski, associate professor at Northwestern’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center. There is more than one…

Pregnant women with bipolar disorder and their families and physicians should be aware of a significantly higher risk for developing postpartum psychosis, according to a new Northwestern Medicine review of literature on the rare and under-researched disorder. Postpartum psychosis almost always stems from bipolar disorder but is often missed because of its rarity and lack of research on the subject, according to the review from Northwestern Medicine, Stanford University and Erasmus Medical Center in the…