- Researchers recently investigated how older people recover from negative stimuli.
- They found that older adults who are prone to rumination and negative thinking have increased connectivity between brain regions associated with emotional and autobiographical processing.
- They are currently investigating whether mindfulness or “compassionate” meditation can help reduce the risk of dementia.
Existing research shows that the onset of negative emotions is associated with conditions such as depression, anxiety, and rumination.
However, previous research on emotional carryover has focused on young, healthy participants. It remains unclear how emotional carryover affects older adults and how positive thinking modifies its effects.
A new study published its findings,
In this study, we found that ruminating older adults have greater connectivity between the postherpetic cortex (PCC) and the amygdala. PCC is involved in processing autobiographical memories, and the amygdala processes emotions.
“These findings help us understand how empathy and compassion are expressed in the brains of older adults,” said a neuroscientist at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Dresden, Germany. and psychologist and interim team leader Olga Klimecki, PhD, is one of the studies.the author told medical news today.
“The findings also provide brain-connected markers of anxiety, rumination, and negative thinking, which may serve as indicators of how future interventions work,” she added.
In the first experiment, researchers recruited 26 individuals with an average age of 68.7 years, along with 29 individuals with an average age of 24.5 years. They monitored participants via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while watching a video designed to induce empathy.
Older adults showed higher levels of empathy than younger adults when viewing low-emotion videos, and were more active when viewing both high- and low-emotion videos.
Higher levels of empathy predicted greater negative effects from watching emotionally charged videos in both older and younger adults.
Importantly, researchers found a stronger relationship between PCC and the amygdala in older adults, but not in younger adults.
In a second experiment, we performed the same protocol on 127 adults with a mean age of 68.8 years and compared the resulting fMRI data with self-reported scores from the Rumination and Empathy Scales.
Connectivity between PCC and amygdala correlated with levels of anxiety and rumination, but not with empathy.
The researchers also found that high PCC and amygdala interconnectivity predicted negative thoughts more frequently after watching high-emotional videos.
The age-dependent positive effects were not associated with emotional carryover in brain connectivity patterns.
The researchers speculated that PCC-amygdala communication may contribute to emotional inertia and mitigate recovery from negative social situations.
They wrote that this could occur through an association with personal emotional memory, especially in older adults with high levels of anxiety and rumination.
Because PCC is commonly affected, they
“This study has the limitation that while it does show correlation, it does not necessarily show causation,” said Howard Platt, Ph.D., director of behavioral health medicine at Community Health in South Florida, in the study. said he was not involved in MNT.
“To elaborate, while conducting the study, subjects were presented with specific stimuli when the functional MRI was observed, but were able to associate the emotions they were feeling just by looking at the functional MRI.” It was not possible.
Dr. Sony Sherpa of Nature’s Rise, who was also not involved in the study, stresses: MNT Only a small number of participants were involved in this study, so the findings may not apply to a larger, more diverse population.
“To really understand how effective better emotional management is in preventing age-related diseases, we need to conduct large-scale studies with different types of people. Experts also need to consider that there may be components of pathological aging that cannot be explained by emotional management alone.”
– Dr. Sonny Sherpa
Dr. Mara Mather, professor of gerontology, psychology, and biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California, said: She was not involved in the study, she said MNT.
“Conversely, previous research has shown that emotional well-being generally improves throughout adulthood, with young adults having the lowest emotional well-being. When I saw the photo, I felt more empathy and positive emotions.
“The brain patterns that the authors focus on are not related to these age-related positive effects. Instead, they are related to individual differences in these older people,” she explained.
Researchers suggest that meditation may reduce the risk of dementia by preventing emotional inertia. To test this hypothesis, they are now conducting an 18-month intervention study to assess the effects of ‘compassionate meditation’ and mindfulness on dementia risk.
“To further refine our results, we compare the effects of two types of meditation: mindfulness, which involves locking yourself in the present to focus on your emotions, and the other,” Known as ‘mindfulness’ meditation. It aims to actively promote positive feelings towards others,” they said.
“We know that meditation training has a beneficial effect on emotional and attentional processes,” says Dr. Klimekhi. “Having balanced emotions reduces the risk of neurodegeneration.”
“Cross-sectional studies have also shown that the brain is better preserved in people who meditate frequently. Thus, meditation may reduce risk factors for dementia, such as negative emotions, and improve attention in the elderly. With regard to brain structure, current research suggests that starting meditation at an older age may not be enough to preserve brain structure. Although the results are suggestive, these findings are still preliminary and require further research.”
– Dr. Olga Klimecki
A psychiatrist and director of the Pacific Brain Health Center at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, when asked how meditation reduces the risk of dementia Dr. David A. Merrill said he was not involved in the study. MNT that “[t]These findings reveal how emotionally distressing experiences have long-term adverse effects on the aging brain when compared to the brain of young adults. ”
“This is consistent with the popular notion of ‘homeostasis,’ the diminished ability of the aging body and brain to respond to and recover from stressors,” he noted.
“When we are young, our minds and bodies readjust and recover quickly. You’re more likely to be thrown off balance by stressors, leaving you more vulnerable to those stressors for longer,” Merrill explained.
“Developing the skill of meditation can help mitigate the potential negative effects of persistently elevated stress levels that come with aging. Meditation can have many beneficial effects on the brain, including: It involves allowing the “resting state” of the brain in older people to return to normal levels more quickly, like in younger people.
“It’s great to see these studies replicated and expanded to include older adults who suffer from late-life depression and anxiety,” Dr. Merrill concluded.