(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have found that long-term negative emotions cause changes in the neural networks of the brain in older people.
Such changes, in turn, can become the causes of neurodegenerative diseases and dementia.
According to the authors of the new work, such consequences can be avoided by improving the ability to manage your emotions – for example, through meditation.
Negative emotions are thought to contribute to neurodegenerative diseases and dementia. However, their effect on the brain and the strength of the impact is still not fully understood.
Now, neuroscientists at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, have found that older people’s neural circuits show significant emotional inertia a tendency to persist in emotional states for a long time and negative emotions can make a big difference.
This was especially pronounced in the posterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala, areas of the brain actively involved in the management of emotions and autobiographical memory.
Previous research in psychology has shown that the ability to switch quickly between emotions is good for mental health.
In contrast, people who stay in the same emotional state for a long time are at a higher risk of depression.
In the new study, the researchers determined the effects of viewing emotional scenes in young and old people by assessing the reaction of the subjects’ brains and its recovery mechanisms.
The subjects watched short videos showing people in emotional distress, such as during a natural disaster, as well as videos with neutral content.
The brain activity of the participants was monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging.
Older people tended to show a different pattern of brain activity than younger people. This was especially noticeable at the level of the network of the passive mode of the brain, active at rest and relaxation.
Its function is often disrupted in depression and anxiety, suggesting that it is also involved in emotion regulation.
In older people, part of this network, located in the posterior cingulate cortex involved in autobiographical memory processing, showed an increase in connections to the amygdala, which processes important emotional stimuli.
Moreover, these associations were even more pronounced in subjects with high levels of anxiety.
However, older people tend to be better at managing their emotions than younger people and find it easier to focus on positive details even during a negative event.
Therefore, strong changes in the connections between the posterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala may indicate a deviation from normal aging.
The posterior cingulate cortex is one of the areas most affected by dementia. This suggests that the presence of the studied symptoms may increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
According to the authors’ hypothesis, more anxious people have a reduced ability to emotionally distance themselves.
The mechanism of emotional inertia in the context of pathological aging could then be explained by the fact that the brains of these people remain in a negative emotional state for a long time, associating the suffering of others with their emotional memories.
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