LivingFeeling young makes the brain age more slowly

Feeling young makes the brain age more slowly

Is it the age of the brain that indicates our identity card? There is a difference between physical age and mental age, which in some people is more pronounced than in others. A new study seems to indicate that ‘feeling young’ is not a simple matter of attitude; in fact, it can help slow brain aging .

The results obtained by the Seoul National University team seem to indicate that subjective age, that age that people feel inside and that can be different from the real age, may reflect brain aging . Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans, researchers found that older people who feel younger than they are show fewer signs of brain aging compared to those who feel older at his real age.

The publication of the open access journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience was the first to find a link between subjective age and brain aging . The results suggest that those who feel older than they are should pay special attention to their mental health and consider regular care and check-ups. Although there is a tendency to think that aging is a fixed process in which the body and mind are constantly changing, the passing of the years affects each person differently and this study shows.

The team responsible, of which Dr. Jeanyung Chey is a part, wanted to investigate whether subjective age is only an attitude or a reflection of the aging of bodies. ‘ Why do people feel younger than their real age? Some possible responses include depressive states, personality differences, or physical health problems . ‘ Until now, no research had established brain aging as a possible cause of subjective age differences.

It is common to experience cognitive decline with age. The brain shows a variety of age-related changes that reflect a decline in mental health, including a reduction in gray matter volume. New techniques developed may allow researchers to identify brain characteristics associated with aging and calculate an estimated mental age.

The investigation

The team performed MRI scans on 68 healthy people between the ages of 59 and 84 and looked at the volume of gray matter in different regions of the brain. The participants also completed a survey that included questions about whether they felt older or younger than their actual age and others to assess their cognitive abilities and perception of their general health .

The results indicated that people who felt younger tended to score better on memory tests, considered themselves to be in better health, and were less likely to show symptoms of depression. They also showed more gray matter in key areas of the brain, and their MRI data was used to calculate their estimated brain age.

‘We have found that people who feel younger have the structural characteristics of a younger brain . This difference remained strong even when other factors such as personality, subjective health, symptoms of depression or cognitive functions were taken into account, ‘says Dr. Chey.

The researchers’ hypothesis is that those who feel older than their age might be able to detect the brain aging process, as the loss of gray matter would make cognitive tasks more complicated. For now, the study does not confirm whether those brain characteristics are directly responsible for subjective age, and long-term studies would be needed to understand this link in greater depth.

Another relevant conclusion is that those who feel younger are more likely to have a more physically and mentally active life , which would have a positive impact on brain health. “If someone is feeling older than they are, it can be a signal to evaluate their lifestyle, habits and activities that could contribute to brain aging and take steps to improve their mental health,” Chey says.

Reference: Seyul Kwak. ‘Feeling how old I am: Subjective age is associated with estimated brain age, frontiers in aging neuroscience’ (2018). DOI: 10.3389 / fnagi.2018.00168

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