Research Report: World’s most robust marine reserve; detecting Alzheimer’s disease; teen girls and drinking

By Lynne Friedmann


An undersea park near the tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula is the world’s most robust marine reserve, according to a study led by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD.

Results of a 10-year analysis of Cabo Pulmo National Park (CPNP) revealed that the reserve’s biomass (total amount of fish in the ecosystem) boomed more than 460 percent from 1999 to 2009. Another striking finding: Fish communities in the 71-square-kilometer site recovered to a level comparable to remote, pristine sites that have never been fished by humans.

CPNP was established in response to overfishing. Key to the reserve’s recovery has been protection of spawning areas. Equally important, boat captains, dive masters, and local citizens have been united in enforcing strict “no take” regulations and share surveillance, fauna protection, and water-quality efforts.

Recovery has spawned eco-tourism businesses, including coral reef diving and kayaking, making it a model for areas depleted by fishing in the Gulf of California and elsewhere. Findings appear in the online journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) ONE. News release at


Detecting Alzheimer’s disease

A study led by the UCSD School of Medicine and VA San Diego Healthcare System suggests that Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may be more difficult to detect in people over the age of 80.

The study involved 105 people with the disease and 125 people free of dementia.

Participants were grouped according to age (60 to 75 years or age 80 years and older). All were tested to measure language, attention and information processing speed, and immediate and delayed ability to recall information.

Although the two groups had similar levels of overall cognitive impairment and memory loss, researchers found that AD appeared to be less noticeable in the “very-old” (over age 80) when compared to the “young-old” (age 69 to 75). The research appears in the journal Neurology.News release at


Teen girls and drinking

A study of adolescents — led by the UC San Diego School of Medicine and VA San Diego Healthcare System — found that female teens may be particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of binge drinking upon cognitive functioning.

Researchers recruited 95 participants from San Diego-area schools: 40 binge drinkers (27 males, 13 females) and 55 controls (31 males, 24 females) between 16 and 19 years of age.

All completed neuropsychological testing and substance-use interviews, and performed a task during functional magnetic resonance imaging to test “spatial working memory.” Spatial working memory is the ability to perceive the locations of objects and then remember and work with this information.

Female teenage heavy drinkers were found to have less activation in several brain areas than female non-drinking teens doing the same spatial task. Such memory deficits could translate into impaired driving, reduced mathematical problem solving ability, or poor sports performance. Study results are posted online and will appear in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical Experimental Research. News release at