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In a first, scientists pinpoint neural activity's role in human longevity

neural excitation lifespan

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#1 Engadin

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Posted 17 October 2019 - 12:21 PM


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S O U R C E :    MedicalXpress

 

P A Y W A L L E D   S O U R C E :    nature

T I T L E :   Regulation of lifespan by neural excitation and REST

 

 

 

 

The brain's neural activity—long implicated in disorders ranging from dementia to epilepsy—also plays a role in human aging and life span, according to research led by scientists in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School.

 

 

The study, published Oct. 16 in Nature, is based on findings from human brains, mice and worms and suggests that excessive activity in the brain is linked to shorter life spans, while suppressing such overactivity extends life.

 
The findings offer the first evidence that the activity of the nervous system affects human longevity. Although previous studies had suggested that parts of the nervous system influence aging in animals, the role of neural activity in aging, especially in humans, remained murky.
 
"An intriguing aspect of our findings is that something as transient as the activity state of neural circuits could have such far-ranging consequences for physiology and life span," said study senior author Bruce Yankner, professor of genetics at HMS and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging.
 
Neural excitation appears to act along a chain of molecular events famously known to influence longevity: the insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) signaling pathway.
 
The key in this signaling cascade appears to be a protein called REST, previously shown by the Yankner Lab to protect aging brains from dementia and other stresses.
 
Neural activity refers to the constant flicker of electrical currents and transmissions in the brain. Excessive activity, or excitation, could manifest in numerous ways, from a muscle twitch to a change in mood or thought, the authors said.
 
It's not yet clear from the study whether or how a person's thoughts, personality or behavior affect their longevity.
 
"An exciting future area of research will be to determine how these findings relate to such higher-order human brain functions," said Yankner.
 
The study could inform the design of new therapies for conditions that involve neural overactivity, such as Alzheimer's disease and bipolar disorder, the researchers said.
 
The findings raise the possibility that certain medicines, such as drugs that target REST, or certain behaviors, such as meditation, could extend life span by modulating neural activity.
 
Human variation in neural activity might have both genetic and environmental causes, which would open future avenues for therapeutic intervention, Yankner said.
 
 
 
 
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#2 osris

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 05:03 PM

I'm surprised no one had commented on this.



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#3 osris

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 05:11 PM

Here's another article about it in "lay speak":

 
 
Quote:
 
"People who live longer have a reduced level of neural activity – involved in everything from twitching to moving your arms and thinking – compared with those who have shorter lives. A protein known to protect the ageing brain from dementia appears to be responsible for the difference, a discovery that might pave the way for drugs to increase lifespan.
 
Bruce Yankner at Harvard University and his colleagues wanted to understand how gene expression in the brain – the way genes are turned on or off – affects lifespan in humans.
 
They studied brain tissue from hundreds of cognitively healthy humans who had died between the ages of 60 and 100. When they compared the samples from those who died before the age of 80 with those who were at least 85 when they died, the team found that those who lived the longest had fewer genes related to neural excitation switched on.
 
To find out if this might be a factor in lifespan, Yankner and his colleagues then used drugs to suppress neural excitation in nematode worms. The more they suppressed neural excitation, the longer the worms lived on average. Worms genetically engineered to have a gene that suppresses neural activity also lived longer.
 
The relationship went both ways, says Yankner. “Reducing excitatory activity in the worm increases lifespan, whereas increasing excitation reduces it.”
 
Read more: Only one in five UK adults would choose to live forever if they could
The level of neural activity in mammals is regulated by a protein known as REST. Mice bred without this gene had much higher rates of neural activity in the brain compared with normal mice.
 
“This protein suppresses neural genes in humans, mice and worms,” says Yankner. “Mice that lack the REST gene in the brain show elevated neural activity as they age.”
 
The protein has previously been shown to protect the brain from dementia and other disorders. In this study, Yankner and his colleagues found that that levels of REST in the nuclei of brain cells of people who lived to age 100 were significantly higher than those who died younger.
 
“Initially it seemed counter-intuitive that suppressing neural activity would extend lifespan without deleterious side effects,” he says. The researchers suspect the benefit comes from suppressing excessive activity that might prove harmful. Even so, it was surprising that something as short-lived as neural circuit activity could have such far-ranging impacts on someone’s lifespan, says Yankner.
 
He is optimistic that therapies designed to reduce excessive neural circuit activity could work. The findings raise the possibility that activities such as meditation could also work on these pathways to boost longevity."


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#4 osris

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Posted 22 October 2019 - 05:19 PM

According to Wikipedia Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) can reduce neural excitation:
 
"Its principal role is reducing neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system."
 
Is this correct, and if so should we start taking it?






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