Get a hold of yourself: Negative thoughts speed up brain aging, neurodegeneration ~ January 17, 2023

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Young woman suffering from brain issue, stress, headache

Editor’s Note: “Negative vibes” are in the news these days as many, many are learning how to cope with an overwhelming loss of health, happiness, and other “stuff”. The good news is that if there is such a thing as Negative Vibes… then there are Good Vibes as well!

It is in our best interest to learn more about how to hold and keep good vibes as these will help us feel better, function better, and then BE in…

Quantum Joy!

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by John Anderer

GENEVA — Some people tend to be more emotionally open than others, but pretty much everyone has to face their feelings at some time or another. Negative emotions, anxiety, or the occasional bout of depression may be unavoidable in life, but fascinating new findings show how managing emotions can help limit neurodegeneration and slow down brain aging.

Neuroscientists at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) observed how the brains of both young and older adults activated when confronted with the psychological suffering of others. Among older study subjects, neuronal connections displayed significant emotional inertia. In other words, negative emotions felt by those older adults appear to have excessively modified their neuronal connections over an extended period of time. This trend was most pronounced in the posterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala. Both of those brain regions are strongly involved in managing emotions and autobiographical memory.

Study authors explain that these results indicate better management of negative emotions, via meditation for example, may help curb neurodegeneration. This work is just the latest in modern science’s efforts to better understand the brain; researchers have been investigating how the brain reacts to emotions for the past two decades.

‘‘We are beginning to understand what happens at the moment of perception of an emotional stimulus,’’ explains Dr. Olga Klimecki, a researcher at the UNIGE’s Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences and at the Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen, last author of this study carried out as part of a European research project co-directed by the UNIGE, in a university release. ‘‘However, what happens afterwards remains a mystery. How does the brain switch from one emotion to another? How does it return to its initial state? Does emotional variability change with age? What are the consequences for the brain of mismanagement of emotions?’’

‘Older people show a different pattern of brain activity and connectivity’

Earlier studies in psychology have found that the capacity to change one’s emotions in a quick manner can benefit mental health. Meanwhile, those who are unable to regulate their emotions, and thus remain in the same emotional state for longer periods, are usually at a higher risk of depression.

‘‘Our aim was to determine what cerebral trace remains after the viewing of emotional scenes, in order to evaluate the brain’s reaction, and, above all, its recovery mechanisms. We focused on the older adults, in order to identify possible differences between normal and pathological aging,’’ explains Patrik Vuilleumier, professor in the Department of Basic Neurosciences at the Faculty of Medicine and at the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences at the UNIGE, who co-directed this study.

Researchers showed participants a series of short TV clips displaying people in a state of emotional suffering. For example, during a natural disaster. Videos showing neutral emotional content were also presented, and subjects’ brain activity was observed via functional MRI. To start, a cohort of 27 people over 65 years of age were compared with a group of 29 people aged around 25 years old. Then, the same experiment was carried out again with 127 older adults.

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