How you feel about ageing or the elder population could influence how well your brain holds up against Alzheimer’s, according to a recent study.
Researchers from the Yale School of Public Health have released findings that point to certain developmental changes in the brain that stem from negative thoughts about ageing.
The initial study followed 158 healthy people without dementia who were enrolled to participate in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Ageing. People were asked to react to statements that reinforced negative stereotypes about old age. Statements such as “older people are absent-minded” or “older people have trouble learning new things” were used as a way to get a response out of participants. First taken in their 40’s, the same participants began a decade of MRI brain scans to determine the volume of their hippocampus – the brain region which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Research showed that people who held more negative thoughts about ageing, when asked in their 40’s, showed a greater loss of hippocampus volume as they aged.
The results showed that those who carried the negative thoughts, showed the same amount of decline in three years, as opposed to what the positive group showed in nine years.
Another study conducted alongside the initial study, examined different markers of the disease: buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain and neurofibrillary tangles, both proteins that accumulate in and around brain cells.
Results showed that people who held onto negative stereotypes had significantly higher scores of plaques and tangles than those who had a positive outlook on ageing.
The results were not conclusive about how these negative stereotypes impacted the decline, but researchers surmise that stress could be the driver.
This unsettling news provides interesting insights into ageing and longevity.
“We know from other studies that as young as age four, children taken in stereotypes of their culture,” says Becca Levy, lead author of the study and associate professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health. But the results can be interpreted a different way, too. “Positive age stereotypes seem protective of not experiencing these biomarkers,”
Learn how to push out negativity and remain optimistic with these quick and easy steps.