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Rapamycin: Potential Cognitive Enhancer July 1, 2012

Posted by Metabiological in Longevity, Transhumanism.
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Rapamycin has been seeing a lot of attention as a possible inhibitor of aging.  First isolated as a bacterial product from Easter Island (yes, that one) it has consistently proven to be one of the most exciting drugs in the anti-aging field.  How big is it?  The protein it affects is officialy known as mTOR or mammalian Target Of Rapamycin.  TOR incidentaly has also been implcated in the positive effects of fasting on human health and the breakdown and reapsorbtion of old organelles during cellular “housekeeping”.

Now, researchers have discovered another potential benefit of rapamycins use.

“We made the young ones learn, and remember what they learned, better than what is normal,” said Veronica Galvan, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology at the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, part of the UT Health Science Center. “Among the older mice, the ones fed with a diet including rapamycin actually showed an improvement, negating the normal decline that you see in these functions with age.”  The drug also lowered anxiety and depressive-like behavior in the mice, Dr. Galvan said.

Mice are burrowers that prefer tunnels with walls. To observe behavior, Halloran used an elevated maze of tunnels that led to a catwalk. “All of a sudden the mice are in open space,” Halloran said. “It’s pretty far from the floor for their size, sort of like if a person is hiking and suddenly the trail gets steep. It’s pretty far down and not so comfortable.”

Mice with less anxiety were more curious to explore the catwalk. “We observed that the mice fed with a diet containing rapamycin spent significantly more time out in the open arms of the catwalk than the animals fed with a regular diet,” Halloran said.

The second test measured depressive-like behavior in the rodents. Mice do not like to be held by their tails, which is the way they are moved from cage to cage. Inevitably they struggle to find a way out. “So we can measure how much and how often they struggle as a measure of the motivation they have to get out of an uncomfortable situation,” Dr. Galvan said.

The fact that this improved cognition in young as well as old mice as well as the mood related effects suggests this isn’t a reversal of age related decline one might expect from an anti-aging drug but rather something different going on.  Either way keep an eye on rapamycin.  It’s shaping up to be something special.

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Heart Healthy Fats Also Brain Healthy May 21, 2012

Posted by Metabiological in Transhumanism.
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If living longer isn’t enough to get you to put down the steak and start with the olive oil then how about becoming smarter?

The research team analyzed data from the Women’s Health Study — originally a cohort of nearly 40,000 women, 45 years and older. The researchers focused on data from a subset of 6,000 women, all over the age of 65. The women participated in three cognitive function tests, which were spaced out every two years for an average testing span of four years. These women filled out very detailed food frequency surveys at the start of the Women’s Health Study, prior to the cognitive testing.

“When looking at changes in cognitive function, what we found is that the total amount of fat intake did not really matter, but the type of fat did,” explained Olivia Okereke, MD, MS, BWH Department of Psychiatry.

Women who consumed the highest amounts of saturated fat, which can come from animal fats such as red meat and butter, compared to those who consumed the lowest amounts, had worse overall cognition and memory over the four years of testing. Women who ate the most of the monounsaturated fats, which can be found in olive oil, had better patterns of cognitive scores over time.

You are what you eat.  What are you made of?

Increasing Intelligence Makes You More Open To New Experiences January 25, 2012

Posted by Metabiological in Transhumanism.
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Interesting news from the world of psychology.  Researchers measuring the effects of cognitive training on seniors found that not only did their mental abilities improve, their personalities also changed.

A program designed to boost cognition in older adults also increased their openness to new experiences, researchers report, demonstrating for the first time that a non-drug intervention in older adults can change a personality trait once thought to be fixed throughout the lifespan.

Personality psychologists describe openness as one of five major personality traits. Studies suggest that the other four traits (agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and extraversion) operate independently of a person’s cognitive abilities. But openness — being flexible and creative, embracing new ideas and taking on challenging intellectual or cultural pursuits — does appear to be correlated with cognitive abilities.

Unexpected to say the least.  Reading this I can’t help but remember the much publicized study which claimed to show liberals are on average more intelligent than conservatives (before anyone jumps down my throat I am well aware that study had serious problems.)  Other studies which have measured personality traits between political affiliations have noted that self-described liberals tend to be more open to new experiences.  I doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put two and two together there.

Regardless, the idea that increasing intelligence results in greater openness, and one wonders what other personality changes, has obvious implications to transhumanism.  Will a population of smarter humans also be a more tolerant population?  As we get smarter will we get more moral?

Further Evidence Of Genetic Link To Intelligence August 16, 2011

Posted by Metabiological in Transhumanism.
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Talking about genetic links to intelligence always manages to set people’s blood boiling.  Personally, I blame the Nazis.  Like toothbrush moustaches and trenchcoats the Nazis managed to take somethings that wasn’t inherently evil, that genetic variation within the human population can explain some of the variation we see in intelligence, and forever tarnish it by being associated with them.  Thanks a lot assholes.

Unfortunately for those who wish to deny it evidence keeps accumulating that IQ is at least partially genetically determined.  Just this week a new study out of the University of Manchester demonstrates a clear link between biology and intelligence.

Previous studies on twins and adopted people suggested that there is a substantial genetic contribution to thinking skills, but this new study — published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry — is the first to find a genetic contribution by testing people’s DNA for genetic variations.

The team studied two types of intelligence in more than 3,500 people from Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Newcastle and Manchester. The paper, by Dr Neil Pendleton and colleagues, found that 40% to 50% of people’s differences in these abilities could be traced to genetic differences.

40% to 50% are pretty big numbers.  Of course the other 50%-60% is likely accounted for by environmental factors (education, health, etc) so this doesn’t put a nail in the coffin of the nature vs. nurture debate.  As well it shouldn’t since the nature side never suggested nuture played no role in the development of intelligence (the same cannot be said for the nuture side).

The next step of course will be to determine which genes actually encode for intelligence.  This is likely to be a lot harder than it sounds, and it sounds plenty hard already, given the fact that there is more than one type of intelligence and multiple, different genes are likely to encode for each type.  It also cannot be ruled out that improvements in one type of intelligence (e.g. fluid) could come at the expense of another (e.g. crystalline).  Still, gotta start somewhere.