Eat fish, limit violent video games for healthy brain, studies show

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Cyrus Raji, MD, PhD, discuss how eating fish reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease at meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, Wednesday, November 30, 2011. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.

Eat plenty of fish and don’t play violent video games if you want to keep your brain healthy.

Those are the findings of two studies presented Wednesday at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual conference in Chicago.

A diet that includes at least one serving of baked or broiled fish a week significantly reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life, according to one study.

And young men who play violent video games damage parts of their brains that help them control their emotions, learn, organize, plan and problem-solve, according to the other.

In the first study, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh compared the diets of 260 healthy men and women with brain scans. The 163 patients who ate fish every week were at almost five times less risk of contracting Alzheimer’s or dementia ten years later, Dr. Cyrus Raji said.

Dementia “is a disorder that really robs people of a fundamental aspect of who they are, by taking away their memories,” Raji said. “This is the first study to establish a direct relationship between fish consumption, brain structure and Alzheimer’s risk.”

Eating fried fish won’t help because it is low in the Omega-3 oils that help prevent brain deterioration, he said.

As many as 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s, which is incurable. Previous studies have shown that regular mental and physical exercise can also lower the risk of dementia.

The second study, carried out by researchers at Indiana University, found that young men aged 18-29 who played a violent video game for 10 hours over the course of a week had reduced activity in parts of their brain that allow them to control their emotions and aggressive behavior.

Report author Dr. Yang Wang declined to name the game used in the study, but said it was a popular war scenario “first-person shooter” game in which the player adopts the role of a gunman. Previous studies suggest non-violent games don’t present the same risk, study co-author Dr. Vincent Mathews said.

While players might think it’s only a game, the brain doesn’t distinguish between reality and a simulation in the same way, Mathews said.

“This is a free country where people can do what they want for the most part,” he added, but gamers “should be aware of the affects these games are having on their brains.”

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