High brain activity linked to decreased lifespan: study

The brain's neural activity - long implicated in disorders ranging from dementia to epilepsy - also plays a role in human aging and life span


                            High brain activity linked to decreased lifespan: study

Too much activity in the brain may decrease your lifespan. But suppressing such overactivity could extend life, a new study suggests. These findings, according to experts, have opened up avenues to designing drugs that may increase life, especially for those suffering from aging conditions such as Alzheimer's.

“The brain's neural activity — long implicated in disorders ranging from dementia to epilepsy — also plays a role in human aging and life span,” says the study led by scientists in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School. The findings have been published in Nature.

While a 2012 study found that reducing brain activity could benefit people with mild memory impairments, some other studies have also indicated that it seems to be influencing learning. The relationship between learning and brain activity is complex, according to Bruce A Yankner, Professor at the Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study. "It is not yet clear from our study how a person’s thoughts, personality or behavior affect their longevity,"  Yanker told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW). 

Previous studies have suggested that parts of the brain affect aging in animals, but it is poorly understood. Accordingly, the researchers from Harvard Medical School decided to fill the gap by conducting studies in humans, mice and a type of roundworm.

In humans, the researchers looked at the brains of people who died between the ages of 60 and 100. They found that people who lived longer, until 85 or more, had less brain activity, while those who died before they turned 85, had overactive brains. This, says the team, is tied to genes which control activity: genes are active in the former and inactive in the latter.

Tests in mice and roundworm revealed a clearer picture of what was happening inside the brain. They helped scientists identify a means to decrease the overactivity in the brain. 

In the future, the researchers will scout for drugs to help people suffering from aging conditions. "We are interested in finding ways — drugs as well as lifestyle interventions — as a potential approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions of aging," Yanker told MEAWW.

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