Brain aging differs with cognitive ability regardless of education

Scientific Reports

Walhovd, Kristine B; Amlien, Inge; Sørensen, Øystein; Wang, Yunpeng; Mowinckel, Athanasia Monika; Magnussen, Fredrik; Vidal-Piñeiro, Didac; Fjell, Anders Martin

A matter of perspective in time

Today LCBC hosted a lunch meeting with Bård Harstad from UiO’s Department of Economics. Bård gave us an insightful and very entertaining lecture entitled “Time-inconsistent preferences in economics and policy”. How do we perceive the costs relative to the benefits of any given situation as a function of time? Are we adept at investing time and effort in long-term goals that give a delayed pay-off when the perceived cost of such decisions is more immediate? And if something is costly today, does it then pay to postpone until tomorrow? Bård’s research highlights a key factor that needs to be taken into account when we consider how we do and should make decisions. Namely, time. A major issue is time-inconsistency in decision-making. When closer in time, perceived costs often outweigh perceived benefits in the long-term, precisely because they are in the long-term, and because the costs are not. This has far-reaching consequences, helping us understand a key influence as to why people may not save much or may eat too unhealthily, but also economic-related decision-making such as why greener environmental policies are often harder and take far more time to push through. In the latter scenario, the significant costs involved in investing in a new infrastructure for greener energy are often perceived to outweigh the long-term benefits reaped by future generations, despite these benefits actually being far greater. The key may be to recognise that time is a factor that will ubiquitously and continually change our perception of a situation. According to Bård, one should therefore pre-commit to making later changes, because the cost will always be considered greater in the present than in the future.

Oxygen to newborns: vital or toxic?

We were fortunate enough to host a lunch meeting with guest speaker Prof. Ola Didrik Saugstad on the theme of oxygen supplements to newborns following birth asphyxia. Saugstad’s research efforts have been hugely influential in changing perspectives and practice regarding the resuscitation of babies following oxygen starvation at birth. While hospital practice previously favoured supplying newborns with pure oxygen, Saugstad’s research has focused upon showing how harmful this practice can be, and illustrating the benefits of alternatively providing oxygen-starved newborns with normal air. By 2012 the use of normal air was recommended in international health guidelines the world over. As a result of Saugstad and his colleagues’ pioneering research, death rates at birth following asphyxia have dropped by 30%: a figure that corresponds to saving the lives of several hundred thousand children every year.

Bareclona retreat!

As a reward for being named as a world-class research group and our founders Anders and Kristine receiving the the Research Prize for 2015, our group jetted off to Barcelona for a long weekend, to engage ourselves in discussions of the overarching theoretical perspectives running through aging and Alzheimer’s research, this time against a sunny beach backdrop. The weekend featured a guest talk from David Bartrés-Faz from the University of Barcelona on the concepts of cognitive reserve and brain maintenance as we age. The rest of the weekend was characterised by group-runs along the beach promenade, fantastic food, a karaoke bar, a visit to la Sagrada Família, and an after-hours guided tour of the Palau de la Música Catalana (palace of Catalan music). All this was made possible through the inside knowledge and efforts of our own Catalonian rock-star post-docs, Roser and Didac.

Glial cells and cerebral blood flow regulation

Prof. Erlend Nagelhus is the leader of the Letten Centre and GliaLab, a facility for in-vivo optical imaging focussing upon synapse dynamics, neuronal-glial-vascular interactions in brain diseases and the role of glial cells in water homeostasis. He came in to the LCBC office to give us a fascinating lecture entitled “Glial removal of brain interstitial fluid and waste: implications for Alzheimer’s disease”