Newsbriefs: Deep Sleep & Alzheimer’s Disease; New Testing for Concussion Diagnosis

Less Deep Sleep May Predict Onset of Alzheimer’s Disease in Older Adults

Poor sleep is a common sign of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). People with the condition often wake up tired and not refreshed. In a recent study published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers found a connection between AD and sleep problems. In a study of 119 people ages 60 and older, researchers found that older adults who have less slow-wave sleep also have higher levels of the protein tauÑa sign of AD linked to brain damage and cognitive decline. Slow-wave sleep is the stage of deep sleep that is necessary for memory consolidation and for waking up refreshed. Researchers suggest that, based on their findings, poor sleep in older adults be considered a red flag for AD. The researchers noted that reduced slow-wave sleep and elevated tau levels were found in adults with mild or no cognitive impairment at all. This suggests that less deep sleep could be a symptom marking the transition between normal thinking and dementia. Measuring sleep in older adults may be a way to identify heightened AD risk earlier.

FDA Approves New Noninvasive Test for Concussion Diagnosis

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first noninvasive, baseline-free screening to help diagnose concussion. The product is called EyeBOX, and it uses eye tracking on individuals who have a suspected concussion. It takes about four minutes and does not require a baseline test. That’s important because individuals who have been in serious accidents or are otherwise badly injured may not be able to respond to questions or display symptoms included on a baseline concussion test. Likewise, athletes or members of the military who are suspected of having a concussion can often hide symptoms or answer questions in a certain way to “game the system” and appear as though they have not had a concussion. EyeBOX monitors a person’s eye movement and its relation to cranial nerve function. During testing prior to FDA approval, EyeBOX’s concussion test results were closely aligned with traditional baseline testing. EyeBOX will be marketed for use in children ages 5 and older and adults up to age 67 in a pilot launch in select sites later this year.

Study: Two-thirds of Stroke Survivors Are in Exceptional Mental Health

Stroke is among the more unpredictable and potentially devasting health challenges. It can affect your ability to speak, walk, and perform everyday functions. A stroke can also injure the brain in ways that harm memory and thinking skills, and can change a survivor’s personality forever. But there is some encouraging news that speaks to the resilience of the human brain. In a study published in the Journal of Aging and Health, researchers found that two-thirds of stroke survivors are in “complete mental health,” despite the impact of their stroke. The researchers defined the criteria for “complete mental health” as being happy or satisfied with one’s life on an almost daily basis and being free of suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse for at least one year. Two criteria for helping survivors achieve happiness were having a confidant and having little to no chronic pain. Not surprisingly, survivors who reported high levels of pain or discomfort tended to be less satisfied. While it’s impossible to know how a stroke might affect an individual, researchers hope that survivors and their families will know that it’s possible to enjoy a good quality of life after a stroke.

Americans Are Happier in States That Spend More Money on Public Goods

In an analysis of data collected between 1976 and 2006, researchers found that Americans tend to be happier in states that spend more on things like parks, libraries, highways, natural resources and police protection. These things are considered “public goods” because they are most often provided by governments and one person’s enjoyment or use of them doesn’t interfere with another person’s ability to enjoy them. While researchers didn’t show a cause and effect between spending on public goods and happiness, they did suggest that their findings may indicate that people tend to move to places with strong public investment or that people who value these things may pressure their governments to make them priorities. The study was published in Social Science Research.

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