Managing your emotions better can help slow the aging process, according to new research.
Negative emotions, anxiety, and depression are thought to drive the development of neurodegenerative diseases and dementia.
Scientists say that’s because prolonged negative emotions can change your brain.
Older people are disproportionately affected by negative emotions, and these effects can last for a long time.
Two brain regions are particularly affected: the posterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala.
These areas are strongly involved in the management of emotions and autobiographical memory.
It is also the part of the brain most affected by dementia.
When these strong and long-lasting negative emotions affect this part of the brain, people can start to suffer from morbid aging.
“Our hypothesis is that people who are more anxious are either less capable or less capable of emotional distancing,” said study author Sebastian Baez-Lugo of the University of Geneva.
“The mechanism of emotional inertia in the context of aging is explained by the fact that the brains of these people remain ‘frozen’ in a negative state by associating the suffering of others with their own emotional memories.” will be “
Being able to manage your emotions and change them quickly is beneficial to your mental health and is essential in preventing this kind of aging.
People who are unable to control their emotions and stay in the same emotional state for long periods of time are at increased risk of depression and damage to areas of the brain related to memory.
To arrive at their results, scientists looked at the brains of young and old people when faced with the psychological distress of others.
Participants were shown short television clips of people in emotional distress. This could have been in a dire situation like a natural disaster.
They were also shown videos with neutral and emotional content.
Along the way, scientists used functional MRI to observe brain activity.
They compared a group of 27 people over the age of 65 with a group of 29 people around the age of 25.
They then repeated the experiment with 127 older adults.
Co-author Professor Patrick Villemier said, “Our aim was to examine what imprints are left in the brain after viewing an emotional scene, in order to assess the brain’s response and, above all, its recovery mechanisms.” It was a decision.
“We focused on older people to identify the difference between normal and pathological aging.”
“Older people typically show different patterns of brain activity and connectivity than younger people,” said Baez Lugo.
“This is particularly pronounced at the level of activation of the default mode network, a brain network that is highly activated in the resting state.
“Its activity is frequently interrupted by depression and anxiety, suggesting that it is involved in regulating emotions.
“Part of this network, in older adults, the posterior cingulate cortex, which processes autobiographical memories, shows increased connectivity with the amygdala, which processes important emotional stimuli.
“These connections are stronger in subjects who have high anxiety scores, who are ruminating, or who have negative thoughts.”
Researchers are currently investigating whether meditation can help people who have trouble regulating their emotions.
Baez Lugo says: As a “compassionate” meditation aimed at positively enhancing positive feelings towards others.
Despite these results, scientists still have many questions.
“We are beginning to understand what happens the moment we perceive an emotional stimulus,” said Dr Olga Klimecki, a researcher at the Swiss Center for Emotional Sciences at the University of Geneva.
“But what happened after that remains a mystery. How does the brain switch from one emotion to another? How does it return to its initial state? Does emotional diversity change with age? What effect does mismanagement of emotions have on the brain?
The study was published in the journal Nature Aging.