The More Active Your Brain, The Shorter Your Lifespan?
There are many factors that influence aging, as well as how long somebody lives. Some factors, like genes, are beyond our control. Others, like their lifestyle and environment, are a bit easier to alter.
A new paper published in Nature and co-authored by Dr. Bruce Yanker, a professor of genetics and neurology at Harvard Medical School. suggests that...
Excessive neural activity in the brain is linked to a shorter lifespan, and that suppressing that extra activity could prolong it. The finding is preliminary, and will require far more research before it results in any concrete health recommendations—but it opens up the possibility of using either drugs or behavioral interventions, such as meditation, to alter the brain’s activity, and possibly slow the effects of aging.
The link between nervous system activity and longevity wasn’t totally unexpected.
But the fact that less brain activity was associated with longevity at first seemed “counterintuitive” to researchers who assumed an active brain would be linked with better health and vitality.
“One potential explanation was that this could have been a correlation: as people get older, their brains slow down”
Those who died younger, they thought, may simply have died of causes unrelated to neural activity. But without being able to test that theory in humans, they turned to worms, which are often used in aging research due to their short, easy-to-study lifespans.
Aside from the promising avenues for drug research, Yanker says the work suggests habits and behaviors that affect the brain’s neural activity—like yoga and meditation—could potentially prolong lifespan. That’s a common idea in Eastern healing traditions, but one that has only recently infiltrated the Western medical establishment, he says.
It’s much too soon to prescribe a daily meditation session or yoga class based on these findings, but research is a promising step toward understanding how “a person’s thoughts, personality and behavior affect their overall health and longevity.”