Dementia, End-of-Life Care

Hospice care for those with dementia falls far short of meeting people’s needs at the end of life

Strikingly, only 12% of Americans with dementia ever enroll in hospice. Among those who do, one-third are near death. This is in stark contrast to the cancer population: Patients over 60 with cancer enroll in hospice 70% of the time. In my experience caring for dementia patients, the underuse of hospice by dementia patients has more to do with how hospice is structured and paid for in the U.S. than it does patient preference or differences between cancer and dementia.

Biotechnology, Brain and Nervous System, Ethics

Several companies are testing brain implants – why is there so much attention swirling around Neuralink? Two professors unpack the ethical issues

Putting a computer inside someone’s brain used to feel like the edge of science fiction. Today, it’s a reality. Academic and commercial groups are testing “brain-computer interface” devices to enable people with disabilities to function more independently. Two two scholars at the University of Washington School of Medicine – Nancy Jecker, a bioethicst, and Andrew Ko, a neurosurgeon who implants brain chip devices – discuss the ethics of this new horizon in neuroscience.

Aging, Brain and Nervous System, Dementia, Prevention

Lifestyle changes can reduce dementia risk by maintaining brain plasticity — but the time to act is now

There are several new drugs making their way to the market for Alzheimer’s disease (one of the most common forms of dementia). However, they are still far from a cure and are currently only effective for early-stage Alzheimer’s patients. So lifestyle changes may be our best hope of delaying dementia or not developing dementia at all.

Brain and Nervous System, Mental Health, Wellness

Meditation Is Big Business. The Science Isn’t So Clear.

For more than two decades, various studies have suggested that meditation and mindfulness — that is, being aware of the present moment — can help reduce and improve pain management, lending some credence to the notion that the brain can affect the body. Such results have helped the field grow into a multibillion-dollar industry, populated by meditation apps, guided workshops, and upscale retreats.
Yet the field has also faced sharp criticism from psychologists and researchers who say the health benefits are overstated and some of the research methodologically flawed.

Illustration of a man leaning over and grimacing from low back pain.
Brain and Nervous System, Musculoskeletal, Pain Medicine, Painkillers

Most people with chronic back pain naturally think their pain is caused by injuries or other problems in the body such as arthritis or bulging disks. But our research team has found that thinking about the root cause of pain as a process that’s occurring in the brain can help promote recovery.

Brain and Nervous System, Wellness

Our vagus nerves help us rest, digest and restore. Can you really reset them to feel better?

On social media and in wellbeing circles, people have been talking about the vagus nerve a lot. In fact, we have two vagus nerves – a left and a right – and their optimal functioning is essential for good physical and mental health.

Many social media posts describe ways to reset the vagus nerves to reduce stress and increase calm. These mostly focus on yoga, meditation, deep breathing and cold plunges.

But the vagus nerves also play a part in why socialising, sex and sports are good for our health and wellbeing.