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Weight loss surgery could boost brain power

Weight-loss surgery may boost brain power among some obese women and lower their risk for Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study.

Researchers in Brazil looked at the brain scans and blood test results of 17 obese women before they underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery and six months after surgery, and compared their results to 16 normal weight women. The women also took an IQ test and six other tests that measured their cognitive and memory skills.

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The scans showed the obese women’s brains metabolized excess sugars faster before surgery, which could signal that the brain is slowing down on other cognitive tasks. After surgery, the researchers found that the brain metabolized sugars at the same rate as the normal weight women, and detected a change in activity in the part of the brain linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Both groups of women performed equally well on the IQ tests. The obese women performed better on one of the six tests after surgery.

BOTTOM LINE: Weight loss surgery may boost brain power among some obese women and lower their risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

CAUTIONS: The study only looked at a small sample of women so the findings may not apply to a wider group.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Aug. 26

Hyper-connections in the brain linked to depression

Some young adults who have a history of depression may have hyper-connected emotional and cognitive networks in the brain that put them at increased risk for depression, new research suggests.

Researchers at the University of Illinois used magnetic resonance imaging to compare brain connections in 30 young adults ages 18 to 23 who were diagnosed with depression during adolescence with 23 healthy young adults.

Researchers detected that regions of the brain involved in emotion and cognition were hyper-connected among young adults with a history of depression compared with their counterparts. The young adults with the hyper-connected networks were more likely to overthink or obsess over problems without coming to a solution.

Detecting high levels of brain connectivity may help researchers predict who will be at greater risk to develop depression, the authors wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: Some young adults who have a history of depression may have hyper-connected emotional and cognitive networks in the brain.

CAUTIONS: The study only looked at a small sample over a short period of time and does not show whether the young adults will experience a recurrence of depression.

WHERE TO FIND IT: PLOS ONE, Aug. 27

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