The Less You Sleep, The Faster Your Brain Ages

School Singapore (Duke-NUS) has found that the less a person sleeps, the faster his brain ages. A good amount of sleep is necessary for normal brain and body function, nevertheless we let our busy lives deprive us of the optimum amount of sleep we need. The findings were published in the journal SLEEP, and it also shows that the less you sleep, you are more like to have cognitive decline, including dementia.

Ventricular system

Previous researches have shown association of little sleep with worse brain function with age and link of poor sleep with Alzheimer’s biomarker, but this study is the first of its kind to have found direct impact of sleep duration on cognitive functions.

Enlargement of brain ventricles is associated with aging; faster the brain ventricle enlarges, quicker the brain function will decline and chances of developing neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s) will increase. The research claims that less sleep is associated with faster ventricle enlargement.

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In the study, the participants underwent structural MRI brain scans measuring brain volume and neuropsychological assessments testing cognitive functions every two years. The researchers also recorded their sleep through a questionnaire. Those who slept fewer hours showed faster ventricle enlargement and their cognitive performance declined rapidly.

According to Dr. June Lo, the lead author and a Duke-NUS Research Fellow, at least 7 hours a day sleep is essential for adults, which seems to be the best spot for optimal performance on computer based cognitive tests. In the near future, he is planning to carry out researches to determine the amount of sleep necessary for cardio-metabolic and long term brain health.

Alessandro de’ Medici Black presence in x Renaissance Europe

Portrait of Alessandro de’ Medici by Jacopo Pontormo. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Image from World Gallery of Art at

Catherine Fletcher, Lecturer in Public History at the University of Sheffield, explains the background to the project (published 2013, updated 2015).

Alessandro de’ Medici was the illegitimate son of Lorenzo de’ Medici, duke of Urbino, and a servant or slave, perhaps called Simunetta, who worked in the household of Lorenzo’s mother. Since the sixteenth century it has been said that Alessandro’s mother was of African descent: either Moorish (North African) or mixed Black African/European. (The site’s tag-line is a quotation from a French author, Jean Nestor, writing in 1564.)

On that basis Alessandro is sometimes called the first black head of state in modern Western history, though this terminology would not have been used at the time. He was born around the year 1512 and ruled Florence from 1531 until his assassination in 1537. (Some scholars have suggested he was the son of Pope Clement VII, but the most recent research points to Lorenzo.)

The Medici had long been powerful players in the Florentine Republic, but Alessandro was the first of the family to rule the city as its duke, a title he acquired in 1532. He married Margaret of Austria, an illegitimate daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. His reign was dogged by bloody rivalry with his cousin Ippolito de’ Medici and a group of Florentine exiles who wanted to restore a republic.

In the past ten to fifteen years Alessandro’s African heritage has increasingly been the subject of discussion, though it remains (in the words of the 2010 edition of The Image of the Black in Western Art) a ‘vexed question’. Earlier works on his career often denied it (or acknowledged it in a back-handed, racist fashion), and even today his life remains a little-known part of Florence’s history. My own first introduction to Alessandro’s career came not on a trip to Florence (a city I’ve visited on numerous occasions) but in my university library, reading John K. Brackett’s fascinating chapter on him in the 2005 book Black Africans in Renaissance Europe.

Shortly before that book came out, a decision by a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to downplay Alessandro’s African heritage in the exhibition catalogue had prompted furious criticism. In the past few years, however, things have begun to change. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, now presents its portrait of Alessandro in the context of Africans in Renaissance Art,  and the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, recently showed its portrait of Maria Salviati with Alessandro’s daughter Giulia de’ Medici in an exhibition entitled Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe.

Further studies on Alessandro and his relatives are now helping to build a more rounded picture of his rule and its context.