Mind-stimulating activities may help aging brains
The benefits of reading and writing are backed by some arithmetic compiled for a study at Rush University Medical Center.
Reading, writing, solving math problems, playing board games and other mind-stimulating activities can preserve cognitive ability in the brains of older adults, according to data from the study. This information isn't new; however, this time researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to see exactly how the activities affected the brain.
The study measured the movement of water molecules through the brain's white matter, which is composed of nerve fibers that transmit information throughout the brain. In healthy white-matter tissue, water isn't as free to move around as it is if the neurons that help keep us mentally sharp dwindle away.
More frequent cognitive activity in later life was associated with a white matter of higher integrity, meaning healthier neurons, throughout the brain.
"Regions throughout the brain that are quite important to healthy functioning showed less water movement with more frequent mind-stimulating activity in late life," says Konstantinos Arfanakis, PhD, a medical physicist with the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center who led the study.
"Keeping the brain occupied late in life through activities such as reading the newspaper, writing letters, or playing games such as chess or checkers are all simple ways to keep your brain healthy."
Novel approach for living kidney donors
During a living-donor transplant, surgeons at Rush University Medical Center removed the donor's kidney using a single incision in the belly button, introducing to Illinois a leading-edge surgical technique.
This approach, called single-incision laparoscopic surgery, is as safe as the standard procedure with the advantage of having the incision hidden inside the belly button. Therefore, it's an essentially scarless procedure, making it more appealing cosmetically to donors, according to Sameh Fayek, MD, a transplant surgeon at Rush. Only a small adhesive bandage is needed to cover the belly button after surgery.
Since 1996, the conventional approach for removal of donor kidneys required three or four small incisions in order to fit instruments and a camera, as well as a separate four-inch incision to remove the kidney. With the single-incision approach, the surgeon makes a small incision that accommodates a specially designed port large enough to fit all of the necessary instruments that free up the kidney, which is removed through the same incision.
"Donating a kidney is a selfless act, and this single-incision option aims to minimize pain and improve the donor's cosmetic outcome and satisfaction," Fayek says. "We hope this technique will encourage more healthy people to consider kidney donation."
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