Our Saturday green news brings you the latest on health, parenting and cool baby and kid products:
- Cocoa might help reversing memory loss: Cocoa has many health benefits including positive effects on blood circulation and blood pressure and preventing cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels. Now a new study recently published in the journal Nature Neuroscience reported that the bioactive ingredients found in cocoa called flavanols can also sharply reversed age-related memory loss. The research studied 37 healthy volunteers aged 50-69 over a period of three months, who were given either a high dose of flavanols — 900 milligrammes — or a low dose, 10mg. The high-flavanol group notched up major memory improvements and an increase in blood flow to the dentate gyrus. As Scott Small, a professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York explained: “If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old.” However, additional work in a bigger group is essential to verify these early findings.
- Bilingual brains have better capacity to process information: According to new research from the Northwestern University recently published in the journal Brain and Language, speaking more than one language is beneficial for the brain since bilingual speakers process information more efficiently and easily than people speaking only a single language. As Viorica Marian, the research leader and a professor in the department of communication sciences and disorders in the School of Communication at the Northwestern University, explained: “The benefits occur because the bilingual brain is constantly activating both languages and choosing which language to use and which to ignore. When the brain is constantly exercised in this way, it doesn’t have to work as hard to perform cognitive tasks. It’s like a stop light, bilinguals are always giving the green light to one language and red to another. When you have to do that all the time, you get really good at inhibiting the words you don’t need.” The study was one of the first to use fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to test co-activation and inhibition in bilingual people. Co-activation during bilingual spoken language comprehension, a concept Marian pioneered in 1999, means that fluent bilinguals have both languages “active” at the same time, whether they are consciously using them or not. Inhibitory control involves selecting the correct language in the face of a competing other language. Another study Marian collaborated on with her U.K. colleagues, which was recently published in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, suggests that efficient brains can have many benefits in everyday life. For instance, bilingual children function more efficiently in a noisy classroom than children who speak only one language.